Grants worth £10 million are being made available to help develop commercial launch capability for spaceflight, Science Minister Jo Johnson announced today. The funding comes as the government announced the timeline for new legislation which will facilitate and regulate commercial spaceflight.
The government’s ambitions for the UK to hold a greater share of the commercial spaceflight market, worth an estimated £25 billion over the next 20 years, took a step forward with a call for businesses to develop competitive, commercial and safe spaceflight proposals for UK-based satellite launch services and sub-orbital flights.
Spaceport Cornwall, to be situated at Newquay airport will be applying and is the front runner to be the UK’s first commercial Spaceport.
The Government is inviting applications for grants to make the UK the first place in Europe where commercial space operators can launch small satellites into orbit, or offer spaceplane flights for science and tourism from 2020.
To be considered for a grant, joint enterprises or vehicle operators and potential spaceports should propose an outline business plan on how they intend to launch small satellites or sub-orbital flights, including space tourism, microgravity flights or spaceplanes, from the UK by 15 April 2017.
Organisations expected to bid for a share of the funding are likely to be joint enterprises of launch vehicle operators and potential launch sites. The funding must be used to develop spaceflight capabilities, such as building spaceport infrastructure or adapting launch vehicle technology for use in the UK. The aim is to establish a commercial spaceflight market to capture a share of the emerging global market.
Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson has promised to publish draft legislation to enable safe spaceflight from the UK by 2020 in the next few weeks.
Science Minister Jo Johnson:
“We want to see the UK space sector flourish, that is why we are laying the groundwork needed for business to be able to access this lucrative global market worth an estimated £25 billion over the next 20 years. The call for proposals I announced today, together with a new, dedicated Spaceflight Bill, will help make our space ambitions a reality”
Growing the space and aerospace sector is a key priority for the LEP because of Cornwall’s nationally significant infrastructure at Goonhilly Earth Station including mission control, tracking and communication facilities, and the Aerohub Enterprise Zone at Cornwall Airport Newquay with one of the UK’s longest runways and uncongested airspace.
The LEP will lead a bid to secure a UK spaceport licence that would allow for horizontal spaceplane launches deploying satellites from Cornwall Airport Newquay, and providing low-cost access to space and new launch capability for the UK.
Sandra Rothwell, chief executive of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP, said: “Cornwall Airport Newquay is the only site able to offer low cost access to space in the UK by the target date of 2020. We are perfectly placed to maximise the potential from the global small satellite launch market, and spaceplane development.
“We are studying the detail of the Government’s call for applications for grant support. They are expecting joint bids from potential launch sites and launch vehicle operators, and the Aerohub team at Newquay is already in dialogue with a number of potential partners from around the world.
“We are also working with three other LEPs with space-related assets to create a UK-based satellite launch programme and a UK spaceport in Cornwall. And we will be making the case for Cornwall’s ability to deliver what is a vital part of the Government’s new Industrial Strategy.”
Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said: “Spaceflight offers the UK the opportunity to build on our strengths in science, research and innovation. It provides opportunities to expand into new markets, creating highly-skilled jobs and boosting local economies across the country. That is why it is one of the key pillars of our Industrial Strategy.
“We want to see the UK space sector flourish, that is why we are laying the groundwork needed for business to be able to access this lucrative global market worth an estimated £25 billion over the next 20 years. The call for proposals I announced today, together with a new, dedicated Spaceflight Bill, will help make our space ambitions a reality.”
The LEP and Aerohub will be attending a UK Space Agency conference in London later this month that will highlight progress being made towards small satellite launch and sub-orbital flights in the UK. The Cornwall team will be setting out why Newquay is the best place for a UK Spaceport.
And Cornwall will be represented at the national UK Space Conference in Manchester later this year.