THE skies over South Cumbria became the unofficial space centre of Britain 20 years ago as scientist Steve Bennett launched a rocket 20,000ft into the sky above Morecambe Bay.

The Mail, on August 21 in 1999, noted: “Making an awe-inspiring sight, the 22ft Starchaser 3a rocket soared from the launch pad, a mile out from Flookburgh on the sands of Cartmel Wharf.”

The launch was delayed by 40 minutes to avoid aircraft before the rocket reached 700mph in just three seconds.

It returned to earth on a multi-coloured parachute.

More than 100 print journalists, radio and TV crews from across the UK were there to see the first flight and had been taken to the launch pad across the sands on tractors and trailers.

Mr Bennett, head of space technology at Salford University, wanted to send a manned rocket 62 miles high by 2003 to claim a $10m prize.