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British spaceport to get the go ahead

Sky News logo Sky News 15/03/2018
An artist's impression of the Prestwick spaceport © Other An artist's impression of the Prestwick spaceport

Dreams of a spaceport for Britain will be a step closer to reality with new laws to cash in on the commercial opportunities of outer space.

The Space Industry Bill, due to be given Royal Assent later, will enable launches from UK spaceports to help British companies enjoy quicker and cheaper access to outer space.

Currently, satellites must be launched into orbit from spaceports abroad, exposing British firms to substantial cost, delay and bureaucracy.

The legislation aims to present new opportunities in the commercial space race, increasing Britain's share of the global space economy from 6.5% to 10% by 2030.

The Government predicts it will create hundreds of jobs, bring in billions of pounds and increase the scope for scientific research.

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The creation of spaceports also provides some of the infrastructure needed for space tourism, although the Government has said it has no current plans to create the regulatory framework needed for passenger trips.

Transport Minister Jo Johnson said: "The Space Industry Bill gives companies the ability to launch satellites from UK soil, putting us at the forefront of the new space race, and helping us to compete as the destination of choice for satellite companies worldwide."

Related: Has Elon Musk started a new space age?

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A number of sites have been previously been earmarked as possible spaceport locations, including Glasgow Prestwick Airport, Campbeltown, Stornoway, Newquay and Llanbedr.

Potential sites for Britain's spaceport (click image to enlarge) © CAA Potential sites for Britain's spaceport (click image to enlarge) Jules Matteoni, operations director at Glasgow Prestwick, said: "This means we will be able to offer horizontal launches of orbital and sub-orbital missions for satellite launches, micro-gravity experiments and passenger spaceflight experiences.

"As soon as the Space Industry Bill is enacted and a regulatory framework is in place, we will seek to apply for a licence and expect to become the first fully operational, licensed spaceport in the UK and Europe."

The prospect of low-cost, reliable access to space has been welcomed by companies involved in the building and use of satellite technology.

The city of Glasgow has become a centre for satellite technology, with resident firms creating around 70 satellite 'spacecraft' in the past three years, more than anywhere outside of California.

Gavin Tweedie, of Global Surface Intelligence, told Sky News: "The legislation will create more interest in the sector. It will bring investment, which will lead to more research and more reliable applications of the data collated from space."

Steve Greenland, of Craft Prospect, said: "Our barrier is the access to space and the number of satellite missions.

"This will push forward efficiency.

"The time spent on navigating licensing and regulations will be greatly reduced."

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 While NASA is mostly known for studying the outer reaches of our solar system, it's trained countless satellites on Earth, giving scientists a cornucopia of data about our changing planet. But sometimes, science and art aren't so different. In November, NASA's Global Climate Change Group released the most stunning images taken by satellites and astronauts in space. Many of these images are in false color, which scientists use to display images and features that aren't usually visible to the naked eye. Here is our selections of the best of the bunch: Here are the most stunning images NASA has ever taken of our planet

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