A NEW “Star Trek” Bill to boost Britain’s £40billion space race will be announced by David Cameron in the Queen’s Speech this week, writes Caroline Wheeler.
The Government will boldly go where none has before with plans to build the UK’s first commercial spaceports to blast tourists into orbit by 2018. Britain hopes to capture 10 per cent of the world’s space market by 2030, increasing its value from £12billion to £40billion and creating more than 100,000 jobs.
It is part of a campaign to harness the latest technologies. The Bill will also support the development of driverless cars, an industry which is forecast to be worth up to £900billion around the world by the end of 2025.
It will also help promote innovation and growth in the use of drones, which could in the future be used by companies to deliver parcels direct to people’s front doors.
I am determined that the UK gets maximum benefit.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced yesterday: “Driverless cars and commercial space flight might seem like something from science fiction, but the economic potential of this new technology is huge.”
He added: “I am determined that the UK gets maximum benefit.
“If we want to propel Britain’s economy into the modern age – and generate the jobs that will come with that – then it is vital that the right rules are in place to allow new transportation to flourish.
“Having a long-term economic plan which really works for the country means putting in place legislation that will put us at the heart of the modern transport revolution.”
Government ministers intend to grab the maximum economic value for Britain from advances in the new technology. Earlier this year, six airports from around the country unveiled their pitches to become the UK’s first spaceport.
Newquay airport in Cornwall, Prestwick, Stornoway, Leuchars and Campbeltown airports in Scotland and Llanbedr airport in Wales all want to be the base for spaceplanes and rockets operated by commercial space firms, like Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and XCOR Aerospace.
The Government is expected to invite bids later this year with a view to the country’s first “intergalactic Gatwick” opening within the next two years. The plan then is to use the spaceport to launch tourists – as well as commercial satellites – into space.
Britain is already towards the forefront of the space industry, having designed the Beagle 2 Mars landing craft and contributing to the European Space Agency’s ExoMars Rover, as well as being involved with many commercial satellites.
But at the moment the spacecraft involved all have to be launched from the US, Kazakhstan or other foreign countries. The Government is now determined to take back the lead in the space race.
Plans will be put in place to secure low-cost access to space for the country’s world-leading small and micro satellite industry. Potential investors will then be encouraged to pump money into spaceplane operations, spaceports and related emerging technology companies.
At the same time they will be creating thousands of highly-skilled jobs. The Government also wants to explore ways of increasing growth and innovation in the drone industry for private and commercial use, harnessing the potential of this exciting new technology in a safe way.
Then following a public consultation on the proposals during the summer, ministers will investigate what new legislation they might fi rst need to draw up. The UK has already been established as one of the world’s best places to research and develop autonomous and driverless cars.
But the new rules will mean that people will also be able to get the right insurance to operate them. It is hoped all these changes will help to keep the UK as a global leader in this fast-developing sector, which is currently growing at 16 per cent a year.