The government is to announce plans which could pave the way for the first commercial spaceflight to take off in the UK within three years. A draft bill is expected to published in the next few weeks which will provide details on how the UK can facilitate and regulate commercial spaceflight and have it in operation by 2020.

The government says enabling small-satellite launches and sub-orbital flights will provide a massive boost to the UK's economy with the global space market estimated to be be worth £25bn over the next 20 years.

Science Minister Jo Johnson has also announced grants worth £10m to organisations who will be able to help develop commercial spaceflight capability – including helping to building spaceport infrastructure or adapting launch vehicle technology.

Johnson added: "Spaceflight offers the UK the opportunity to build on our strengths in science, research and innovation. It provides opportunities to expand into new markets, creating highly-skilled jobs and boosting local economies across the country. That is why it is one of the key pillars of our industrial strategy.

"We want to see the UK space sector flourish, that is why we are laying the groundwork needed for business to be able to access this lucrative global market worth an estimated £25bn over the next 20 years. The call for proposals I announced today, together with a new, dedicated Spaceflight Bill, will help make our space ambitions a reality."

The legislation proposals were also announced in a written statement to Parliament by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. He added: "The space sector is vital to the future of the UK economy, with a strong record of creating high-value jobs and generating wealth across the country. To help the creation of the space launch market in the UK, the UK Space Agency is inviting commercial space consortia to apply for grant funding to take the action that will make our ambitions a reality.

"Together, the proposed legislation and grant funding announced today will have the potential to enable commercial spaceflight from a UK spaceport by 2020."