The British government will decide by next October whether to establish a government human spaceflight program, Flight International reported this week. The British National Space Centre will assess the costs and benefits associated with having an astronaut corps, either as part of ESA’s astronaut corps or as a more direct relationship with NASA, like Canada and Japan. If the British government does decide to support human spaceflight, it won’t rush into it, incorporating the costs into its 2011-2014 spending plan rather than a 2008-2010 spending plan announced earlier this month.
(Update: the head of the RAF has weighed in and thinks a UK astronaut corps is a good idea in part as “a means of inspiring young people to join his service”.)
The irony in all this is that while the UK government doesn’t support human spaceflight, UK businesses do. Virgin Galactic is based in London and Starchaser, another company pursuing suborbital space tourism, is based near Manchester.