Plans for UK spaceflight announced

Satellites will be launched from the UK for the first time by 2020 and British medical scientists will soon be conducting experiments in zero gravity, according to plans unveiled by the government to boost commercial spaceflight in Britain.

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The new plans could see satellites launched from the UK for the first time
Credit: Launch UK/UK Space Agency

Plans to launch satellites into space from the UK and allow British scientists to conduct zero-gravity medical experiments have been announced by the government.

New powers are to come into force that could see spaceports built in the UK to allow satellites to launch from here for the first time, and enable scientific experiments to be conducted beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

The news was announced at the Launch UK conference at the Royal Aeronautical Society on 21 February, just as the Spaceflight Bill was delivered to the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The bill is intended to facilitate and regulate commercial spaceflight in the UK.

The first satellites are expected to launch from the UK by 2020, as part of the government’s plan for Britain to “hold a greater share of the commercial spaceflight market,” which the UK Space Agency says is worth an estimated £25 billion over the next 20 years.

The agency has made available grants worth £10 million to help develop the capability for spaceflight, and a consortium of spaceflight vehicle operators and UK spaceports is being invited to present business cases for funding.

Space satellites can help provide broadband to isolated and rural communities, as well as help scientists monitor weather systems.

The investment in UK spaceflight could also see British medical scientists travel into space to research and develop vaccines and antibiotics, which grow differently in zero gravity.

Medical tests could also be carried out to learn more about the human body, much the same as experiments currently being undertaken on the International Space Station.

Aviation Minister Lord Ahmad says: “The UK’s space sector is the future of the British economy. It already employs thousands of people and supports industries worth more than £250 million to the economy, and we want to grow it further."

“We have never launched a spaceflight before from this country. Our ambition is to allow for safe and competitive access to space from the UK, so we remain at the forefront of a new commercial space age, for the next 40 years.”


Carousel: ESA - European Space Agency, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
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