The UK is pushing ahead with plans to become a space launch centre, with goals for the first commercial spaceflight from its shores by 2020.

A draft space lift bill, announced this week, will begin the establishment of a legal and regulatory framework to develop the launch and sub-orbital flight markets.

The government is also encouraging business and industry to put forward space launch proposals and has invited commercial space businesses to bid for funding to kick-start development of the market.

Organisations likely to bid for funding are expected to be joint enterprises of launch vehicle operators and potential launch sites, that will develop spaceflight capabilities, such as building spaceport infrastructure or adapting launch vehicle technology for use in the UK.

The aim is to establish a commercial spaceflight market to capture a share of the emerging global market from 2020.

The bill follows a £10mn fund announced by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy earlier this month.

The UK is a leader in satellite technology and services, but currently has no launch services of its own and is therefore reliant on others such as the US, Japan or India. UK businesses often have to share vehicles as a result, which can lead to delays as well as restrictions on where the satellite travels.

Aviation minister Lord Ahmad says: “The UK’s space sector is the future of the UK economy. It already employs thousands of people and supports industries worth more than £250mn to the economy. Our ambition is to be at the forefront of a new commercial space age.”

The global commercial spaceflight market is forecast to be worth an estimated £25bn over the next 20 years.