Page last updated at 23:33 GMT, Saturday, 7 November 2009

Law change call for space flight

Virgin Galactic spacecrafts (Image: Virgin Galactic)
Virgin Galactic expects to start taking passengers in the next few years

A change in the law is needed before Scotland can be considered as a launch site for commercial space flights, the head of Virgin Galactic has said.

The firm's president Will Whitehorn said locations in Scotland and Sweden were being considered as bases for Virgin's European operations.

But he said UK laws would have to be amended to allow flights to take place.

Mr Whitehorn said UK ministers and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) was currently looking at the issue.

Virgin Galactic expects to start taking fare-paying passengers on short space hops in the next few years, but claims current rules would prevent launches from the UK.

'No reliability'

Lossiemouth in Moray has put itself forward as a possible spaceport, and the Virgin boss has said it has great potential.

But he said: "Britain has no legislation to allow us to fly here - there is no regulatory authority.

"The Outer Space Act, which Britain created in 1986, didn't really envisage a system like this.

"It didn't envisage there would ever be space launches in the UK so there's no regulator, no insurance, no reliability or structure.

"But the British National Space Centre, which is a government quango, and Lord Drayson, the minister responsible for space, and the CAA are all looking closely at this issue."

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