The claim was made by Will Whitehorn, chief executive of UKSpace and former president of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. UKSpace is a trade association that represents Britain’s rapidly growing space industry.
Writing for the UKSpace website Mr Whitehorn argued recent successful satellite launches by Virgin Orbit and SpaceX mean the opportunity now exists for the UK to gain its own “sovereign launch capability”.
This will give the UK “the chance to take a lead in the small satellite launch market”.
There are plans to construct a number of space ports in Britain, with projects under development in Cornwall, the Shetland Islands, the Western Isles and Glasgow’s Prestwick airport.
Speaking to Express.co.uk Mr Whitehorn said: “If the Government moves quickly along with the industry then we will have the first air launch from Cornwall next year and hopefully from Shetland using a ground-based rocket shortly afterwards and maybe in 2022 as well.
“The infrastructure in Cornwall could even be used to send humans into space on sub orbital missions by companies like Virgin Galactic and I am happy to volunteer to go.”
The Government is aiming for the UK to control 10 percent of the global space economy by 2030.
Virgin Orbit is hoping to begin horizontal launches out of Spaceport Cornwall, based at Newquay, as soon as next year.
These will see rockets carried out to sea by Boeing 747s from where they will be launched up to space.
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He commented: “The UK leads the world in satellite communications for mobility applications through London-based Inmarsat.
“Successful local companies such as the Airbus-owned Surrey Satellites and AAC Clyde Space are leading the world in producing the new generation of small and cube satellites which will help kick-start this industrial revolution.”
However the UKSpace chief argued the industrialisation of space is crucial for the entire human species, not just those who directly stand to make a profit.
He said: “The future of humankind relies on our unlocking of space.
“To put it starkly, if we don’t have an industrial revolution in space, humankind will suffer.
“And from a capitalist point of view, let’s not forget that space can not only help humanity but be very profitable for those who are good at it – and I think the UK could be!”
“The opportunities that space offers life on Earth are endless.”
Speaking to Express.co.uk last year Dan Hart, Virgin Orbit CEO, described plans for the UK’s first spaceport in Cornwall as “enormously exciting”.
He added: “We now have the ability to make small satellites do tremendous work that used to take a satellite the size of a school bus. That is going to change the whole business calculation.
“Countries that never thought they would make the investment in space because of the cost now can because it’s not that expensive.”