UK space plans take flight – and medicines could benefit

New laws are to allow space rocket launches from UK soil  – and could even lead to development of new vaccines and antibiotics, the government has said.

The Department for Transport thinks space travel will be vital to the future of the UK economy, creating high-value jobs and wealth across the country.

The proposed laws will allow launch of satellites from the UK for the first time, horizontal flights to the edge of space, and the establishment and operation of spaceports in regions across the UK.

Businesses and industry are now being encouraged to come forward with specific proposals for space launches, and the necessary legislation will be introduced later this year.

The government is also inviting commercial space business to bid for funding to help create a space launch market in the UK.

The new proposals to go into space have nothing to do with plans to exit the European Union, as they pre-date last year’s referendum. However there had been fears Brexit could delay the plans, but the government now wants to press ahead with the new laws.

Creating spaceports will lead to demand for hospitality and tourism services, creating jobs and opportunities, the DT said.

Aviation minister Lord Ahmad said: “We have never launched a spaceflight before from this country. Our ambition is to allow for safe and competitive access to space from the UK, so we remain at the forefront of a new commercial space age for the next 40 years.”

Clinical research could also stand to benefit from the new industry. Research has already shown that microbes thrive in microgravity, and according to the UK government vaccine and antibiotic production is just one potential area of research that could benefit from the changes.

US biotech Astrogenetix has already begun early-stage medical research in space, offering services such as microgravity biomarker discovery services for third-party pharma customers.

Astrogenetix says it can provide access to a lab in the International Space Station for R&D and biomanufacturing in microgravity.

Tim Peake, officially the first UK astronaut in his six month 2015-16 mission, acted as a human guinea pig during his stay on the International Space Station, providing medical information such as bone density, blood pressure and intracranial pressure.

The Department for Transport could not provide any more details about the biotech research it hopes to encourage – but hi-tech, high value space technology sits well with the government’s support for pharma and biotech research in the UK.

Photo: NASA /NSSDC

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