Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has hailed today's announcement as a groundbreaking and transformative moment in the United Kingdom's pursuit of rocket launches. With the presentation of the Space Industry Regulations in Parliament, a new era is set to begin, allowing for satellite and rocket launches from UK soil for the very first time. This achievement builds upon the foundations laid by the Space Industry Bill, which received Royal Assent in 2018.
By outlining plans to establish multiple spaceports across Scotland, Wales, and Cornwall, the regulations provide a clear roadmap for the future of the UK's space industry. Grant Shapps, filled with excitement, exclaimed, "This pivotal moment propels our spaceflight aspirations forward. Ever since the initiation of the spaceflight program in 2017, our steadfast goal has been to become the first European country to launch into orbit. By enacting these regulations, we are firmly on track to witness the inaugural UK launches in 2022, thereby ushering in a new era of commercial spaceflight that will benefit the entire nation."
The vision for UK spaceports extends beyond mere launches into orbit; they are intended to serve as dynamic hubs for a wide range of activities. In addition to facilitating sub-orbital space tourism, these spaceports will also accommodate cutting-edge transportation systems such as hypersonic flight. A collaborative publication by the UK Space Agency, the UK Civil Aviation Authority, and the Department for Transport earlier this year identified seven potential spaceport locations, encompassing Newquay in South West England all the way to Unst in the Shetland Islands. These strategically chosen sites will boast advanced vertical and horizontal launch infrastructure, capable of supporting the takeoff of machines weighing up to 1,000kg from British shores.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway underlined the immense economic and employment benefits that will accompany the expansion of launch capabilities across the UK. She expressed her unwavering confidence in the Space Industry Regulations, emphasizing that "Today marks another significant milestone in making UK commercial spaceflight a reality. The regulations we have presented create a supportive, attractive, and safe environment for commercial spaceflight, enabling the first launches from British soil in 2022." With this milestone achieved, the UK is poised to unlock vast opportunities in the growing space sector, fostering innovation, attracting investment, and creating high-quality jobs.
As part of this progressive trajectory, the Shetlands Space Centre has taken active steps by submitting three comprehensive planning applications to the Shetland Islands Council earlier this year. These applications seek approval for the construction of three state-of-the-art launch pads, accompanied by an array of critical infrastructure components. Among these features are a satellite tracking facility, hangarage facilities, integration facilities, and a range control centre situated within the former RAF Saxa Vord complex.
The proposal includes significant improvements to the launch site's approach roads, ensuring seamless access and operational efficiency. To enhance public engagement with the awe-inspiring world of space exploration, the plans also encompass the creation of a wildlife hide at Lamba Ness, offering enhanced accessibility for birdwatching and orca observation. The holistic approach taken by the Shetlands Space Centre exemplifies the commitment to environmental sustainability, community engagement, and scientific advancement that underpins the UK's ambitious space program.