Space isn't just big, it's big business. According to the government, the UK's space industry is already worth more than £13.7 billion to the economy, but one thing's missing: The infrastructure needed to send the next satellite or experiment up into the void from British shores. Plans to grow the commercial space sector have been under way for some time, and several potential sites for the UK's (and potentially Europe's) first spaceport have already been proposed. But before you can shoot for the stars, you have to regulate, which is the intention of the Draft Spaceflight Bill introduced today.
The publication of the bill follows the announcement earlier this month of a £10 million fund to support UK companies in developing launch capabilities. The Draft Spaceflight Bill isn't nearly as cool as it sounds, though, because it tackles the more boring regulatory framework we need before rockets can blast off from local spaceports. We're talking spaceflight licences, restricted launch zones, insurance requirements, astronaut training and other safety obligations -- that sort of stuff.
Once there's an agreement on what rules need making, the finer details will be worked out in secondary legislation, and the government thinks it's feasible we'll have an operational UK spaceport in 2020. It's a good thing we already know Brits make cracking astronauts then.