UK to get spaceport thumbs-up

Last updated at 13:26
Glasgow Prestwick Airport spaceportGlasgow Prestwick Airport
Glasgow Prestwick Airport is one of the places hoping to have its own spaceport, this is what they think it might look like

The UK is getting the go-ahead to start building its own space launch sites, so it can send rockets and satellites to the stars.

It's called a spaceport.

At the moment satellites must be launched into orbit from spaceports abroad, which makes it really expensive.

Space is one of the fastest growing industries in the UK: it is worth more than £11 billion and gives jobs to around 34,000 people.

And the laws to get the engines running on a spaceport are due to be passed today.

What will the spaceport be like?

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Doug Millard from the Science Museum explains what a spaceport is

Most companies who are interested in building the spaceports want to use what they call a "horizontal launch system".

So what does that mean?

It's a way of launching from a runway - rockets are carried by planes to a very high altitude where they are then released to make their way into orbit.

But normal lift-off rockets that go straight up haven't been ruled out for ever.

Where is it going to be?

Map of UK showing spaceport location options
Eight locations across Scotland, Wales and England are on the shortlist

Now that the laws are being made to allow the spaceport to happen, the next question is: where to build it?

For safety reasons the government wants launches to take place near to water, so in 2014 eight coastal aerodromes that might become a spaceport were put on a shortlist

Who, or what, will go into space?

Orbital AccessOrbital Access
Artwork: A number of companies are looking to develop low-cost air-launch systems

The focus all along has been to try to find a way to allow satellites and equipment to go into space from the UK.

But lots of companies are hoping for more.

An artists drawing of a UK spaceport

Jules Matteoni, who works at Glasgow Prestwick, said: "This means we will be able to offer... orbital and sub-orbital missions for satellite launches, micro-gravity experiments and passenger spaceflight experiences. "

One of the big advantages of a horizontal launch system is that companies like Orbital Access, Space-X and Virgin Galactic could use it to fly tourists into space.

Great! Can I get my moon ticket now?

UnityVirgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic are one of the companies that want to fly tourists in to space in the future.

Don't get too excited yet!

The laws needed to launch those from the UK don't exist yet, and there aren't any plans to create them... for now.

That day trip to the moon is still on hold!

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Fancy a holiday to the Moon and back?