The first space launch from British soil could have lift off early this decade, it was announced today.

The Government has drawn-up plans paving the way for a space flight fired from the UK, following a consultation with industry and the public.

The Department for Transport said legislation “will help to propel the development of commercial spaceflight technologies, from traditional rockets launched vertically into space, to high-altitude balloons and spaceplanes, with launches potentially taking place within the next few years”.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who holds a private pilot's licence, said: “The sky is no longer the limit when it comes to the UK’s ambitions in this sector and today we’re making a giant leap for growth and prosperity for the whole of Great Britain.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps
The Solar Orbiter spacecraft, built for NASA and the European Space Agency, lifts off from pad 41 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket
The Department for Transport believes a UK launch could happen later this decade

“I’m committed to growing the UK’s space industry, and with the most modern piece of space legislation in the world, we are cementing our leading role in this sector, unlocking a new era in commercial spaceflight for all four corners of our nation.”

The Government said Britain's spaceflight plans would create high-skilled jobs in an industry worth £14.8billion.

It said regulations to implement the Space Industry Act will “drive research and innovation, feeding into our emerging National Space Strategy as we level-up the UK and promote growth in this thriving sector”.

The Mirror told in October how Britain's role in the latest space race was being given rocket boosters after a defence giant announced plans for a satellite launch pad – on a remote Scottish rock.

Lockheed Martin plans a launch pad on Unst
Shetland Ponies roam the island

US firm Lockheed Martin will develop operations from Shetland Space Centre on the windswept island of Unst – the most northerly inhabited part of the British Isles.

Just 500 people live on the craggy island, which is 12 miles long by five miles wide.

Shetland Ponies are often seen wandering along the lanes of the isle, which is described as “the absolute end of every Great North Road in Britain”.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said today: “The UK’s space sector is thriving and we have bold ambitions to be the first country in Europe to launch small satellites, while building space capabilities in every corner of the UK.

Science minister Amanda Solloway
Science Minister Amanda Solloway

“Working with our space industry, regulators and across government, we will develop a modern, safe and flexible regulatory framework that will support a new era of sustainable commercial spaceflight across the UK.”