THE UK's first specialist spaceplane design and operating company has been launched at Glasgow Prestwick airport.

Orbital Access Ltd will lead the development of UK designed and manufactured horizontal take off space launch systems from its new headquarters at the Ayrshire base, one of five sites in the running to become the UK's first spaceport.

It comes after the Queen’s Speech outlined plans to prioritise the establishment of commercial spaceports and encourage the growth of its spaceplane industry.

Orbital Access Ltd has been established by Stuart McIntyre, grandson of David McIntyre, the founder of Scottish Aviation, and is backed by Scottish Enterprise.

It will be based in the iconic Palace of Engineering at Glasgow Prestwick Airport - the site of BAE Systems’ historic regional aircraft manufacturing business Jetstream Aircraft and, before that Scottish Aviation,

Mr McIntyre said: “While a spaceport in the UK is a key piece of required infrastructure it will be of marginal value if we do not also have the industrial and technical launch systems in the UK capable of exploiting it.”

“The industrial, economic and employment dividend from the spaceport cannot be realised if all we do is host occasional US designed, built and operated systems. We have an aerospace and space industry with an enormous legacy of capability.

"We have some of the latest cutting edge technologies. All we need to do is integrate these to deliver our own capable and world class space launch systems.”

The UK Government wants to build a spaceport in the UK by 2018 and has shortlisted five potential sites - Campbeltown, Glasgow Prestwick, and Stornoway in Scotland; Newquay in England and Llanbedr in Wales

This would mean that commercial space planes could fly in and out of the UK to altitudes of 15,000 metres, on the edges of space, to give space tourists a view over the Earth and a few minutes of weightlessness.