The UK could launch satellites from its own spaceport by 2020

24 Feb 2017

Cloudy rocket launch. Image: Vladi333/Shutterstock

With help from the UK Space Agency and industry partners, a new spaceport will be built on mainland Britain to launch satellites by 2020.

As a member of the European Space Agency, the UK Space Agency joins its other European members in watching spacecraft take off from the European spaceport, not so conveniently located in French Guiana in South America.

But now, the UK could be about to go its own way, as mainland Britain could soon have its own spaceport.

Scotland leads the way

The British government said that it will partner with the UK Space Agency and industry to build a spaceport to run its own satellite launch services and suborbital flights by the year 2020.

This announcement is part of the government’s industrial strategy for the UK to hold a greater share of the commercial spaceflight market, worth an estimated £25bn over the next 20 years.

According to The National in Scotland, Glasgow Prestwick Airport is considered one of the frontrunners for the site, following on from news late last year that the airport had reached an agreement with Houston Spaceport to share information on future missions.

However, during a presentation this week (21 February), seven other potential regional spaceports gave presentations on why their locations would also be suitable.

‘At the dawn of a very exciting era’

Before it can get there however, a Spaceflight Bill must be passed by law in order to allow for the regulatory infrastructure, not just for the insurance of running such an operation, but also for an astronaut training centre.

The Bill has been presented to the House of Commons and the House of Lords to begin the process.

The UK’s universities and science minister, Jo Johnson, said : “We really do stand at the dawn of a very exciting era. This is a big and incredibly exhilarating moment for this country.”

The UK Space Agency’s CEO, Katherine Courtney, added: “Together, we are working to embrace the emerging small satellite launch market to capture a share of the £25bn global opportunity.

“I’m confident that 2020 will see the first launches from British soil, and we’re working hard to make that a reality.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic