Civil engineers invited to join the space race as UK Spaceport plans outlined

Posted on 25 May 2021

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has hailed an announcement today as a “pivotal moment” in the mission to launch rockets from the UK.

The government laid out the Space Industry Regulations in Parliament today to allow activity to take place from a series of spaceports planned around the country. The new regulations mean satellites and rockets can launch fromUKsoil for the first time.

The news follows on from Royal Assent of the Space Industry Bill in 2018.

Details set out in the Space Industry Regulations show that a number of these hubs could be operational as soon as next year across Scotland, as well as in Wales and Cornwall.

Shapps said today: “This is a pivotal moment for our spaceflight ambitions. Since the start of the spaceflight programme in 2017, we have been clear that we want to be the first country to launch into orbit from Europe.

“The laying of these regulations puts us firmly on track to see the first UK launches take place from 2022, unlocking a new era in commercial spaceflight for all four corners of our nation.”

The government believes sub-orbital space tourism will take place from UK spaceports as well as new transport systems such as hypersonic flight.

A document published by the UK Space Agency, the UK Civil Aviation Authority and the Department for Transport earlier this year listed seven sites for spaceports from Newquay in South West England to Unst in the Shetland Islands off the North East coast of the Scottish mainland.

These will offer a mix of vertical and horizontal launch infrastructure allowing a range of machines weighing up to 1,000kg to take off from UK shores.

Science minister Amanda Solloway said: “Continuing to grow our launch capability will help bring jobs and economic benefits across the UK. The Space Industry Regulations we’ve tabled today will create a supportive, attractive and safe environment for commercial spaceflight.

“Today marks another crucial milestone that will enable the first launches from British soil in 2022 and make UK commercial spaceflight a reality.”

Shetlands Space Centre submitted three related planning applications to Shetland Islands Council at the start of this year.

These sought consent for construction of three launch pads and associated infrastructure incorporating a satellite tracking facility, hangarage and integration facilities, as well as the creation of a range control centre at the former RAF Saxa Vord complex, use of the fuel storage facility at Ordale Airport at Baltasound, and significant improvements to the launch site’s approach roads.

The proposals also included the building of a wildlife hide at Lamba Ness to create enhanced public access for the enjoyment of bird and orca watching.

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