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The National Space Centre is one of the UK’s leading visitor attractions. It is located on Exploration Drive, Leicester, just off the A6 and opened to the public in 2001.


The idea of the National Space Centre came about from the University of Leicester and their Space Research Centre.

A joint bid was made by the university and Leicester City Council to the Millennium Commission. Funding was awarded as a Landmark Millennium Project for the East Midlands.

In 1996, there were a number of firms who went through a competitive process and the winner would design the landmark building. It was Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners of London who won this privilege.

The Building

Space Centre Leicester

The main feature of the Space Centre is the ‘rocket tower’ which stands at 42 metres tall. The tower is covered in high-tech ETFE ‘pillows’ which were manufactured by specialist suppliers Skyspan International.

The tower was designed with a detachable side which enables easier access when replenishing large exhibits.

There are many levels inside the tower, which are all accessible to the public by stairs and lifts.

Along with the iconic tower, there is also a large building which is considered the ‘main body’ of the Centre. Part of this is built below ground level within the walls of the old storm water tanks.

The entire building is situated on a 14.5 acre brown field site on Exploration Drive, in the Abbey Meadows area of Leicester. The attraction is one mile north of Leicester City Centre.

FUN FACT! The Leicester version of Monopoly features ‘Exploration Drive’ as the most expensive property on the board, which is in place of the original version’s ‘Mayfair’.


Not only is the National Space Centre a visitor attraction and a facility for education, it is also a venue for meetings and private events. It can be hired out for events such as awards ceremonies, evening dinners, conferences, product launches, parties and many more. The National Space Centre also hosts Christmas parties which includes a three course meal, live entertainment followed by a disco.

All catering for events at the Space Centre is carried out in house. Dinners, buffets, canapés and more are all available for corporate events.


The National Space Centre offers a range of educational programmes which are all designed to help pupils learn about science, maths and technology. Details of each programme are listed below.

The Space Theatre – the Space Centre offers a unique, high-tech, interactive environment which provides realistic recreations of the phenomena of the skies.

Challenger Learning Centre – this centre is part of an international educational organisation founded by the families of the Challenger space-shuttle crew who lost their lives in 1986. The purpose of this centre is to stimulate long-term interest in science, maths and technology through mission stimulations. Each mission is available for groups of 18-34 people.

Challenger Learning Centre Leicester

FUN FACT! The Challenger Learning Centre is the only one of its kind which is not located in the USA or Canada.

There are two missions available:

  1. Rendezvous with a Comet – For ages 9-12 and school years 5-8
  2. Voyage to Mars – school years 8-10

The Rendezvous with a Comet is also available for ages 11 to adults as a team building mission.

Workshops – There are a number of workshops ran through the National Space Centre which are available to book for school trips. Most aspects of the curriculum are covered from Key Stage 2 – Key Stage 4.

Stardome – the Space Centre also offers an inflatable, portable planetarium.

Lessons in a box – This programme offers schools the loan of boxes to assist the teaching of “Earth and Beyond” which is in the national curriculum. The boxes contain lesson plans and activities such as models, videos, games and pictures and have all been designed by staff and students of the University of Leicester.

e-Missions and Video Conferencing – a stimulated mission can be delivered through live video conferencing and web pages. Students anywhere in the world can link to this programme.

Main Attractions

Below is a list of some of the main exhibits at the National Space Centre.

Soyuz T Space Capsule

–        This is the first thing visitors will see when entering the Space Centre.

–        Soyuz spacecraft are the most used and most reliable form of space travel and are designed to hold a three man crew.

–        Before being displayed at Leicester’s Space Centre, this capsule was displayed in a courtyard in Georgia, USA. It came to England in 2000 and needed major restoration work.

Soyuz Capsule Leicester

Thor Able Rocket

–        Thor rockets are ancestors of America’s modern Delta Launchers.

–        The first weather satellite and the first commercial communications satellite (TELSAR) were launched by these rockets.

–        This rocket is 26 metres high, 2.4 metres in diameter and weighs 51.6 tonnes.

Blue Streak Rocket

–        These rockets were first designed in the 1950’s to be a ballistic missile. They were then adapted in the 1960’s to be used as the first stage of Europe’s first satellite launcher programme.

FUN FACT! It is the first time a Blue Streak rocket has been displayed in an upright position like this one at the National Space Centre.

–        It has a 3.1 metre diameter, is 18.5 metres in length and was 89.4 tonnes at launch.

–        This rocket was launched for the first time in Australia in 1964.

–        It has been loaned to the National Space Centre by the National Museums and Galleries (World Museum Liverpool).

Moon Rock

–        This lunar sample was collected on Apollo 17, which was the last manned moon mission, in December 1972.

–        Its sample number is 7425514 and is on loan from NASA.

–        The sample was collected by Harrison H ‘Jack’ Schmitt and Eugene A ‘Gene’ Cerman.

On site facilities

As well as the extraordinary exhibits which are on display at the Space Centre, there are many facilities:

  • Six interactive galleries
  • Over 150 hands on challenges
  • Iconic rocket tower
  • UK’s largest planetarium
  • 3D SIM ride
  • Weather pod
  • Over 400 parking spaces
  • Gift shop
  • Café
  • Locker hire
  • Free cash machine
  • Baby changing facilities
  • Disabled access

Self-Assessed Accessibility Details


  • Designated disabled parking

Public Areas

  • Level access by ramps and lifts
  • Baby changing facilities
  • Hearing loop in public areas
  • Lift equipped with verbal announcements and raised/braille numbers and letters


  • Hearing loop system
  • Seating available for disabled and those with limited mobility
  • Clear signs
  • Effective lighting for the visually impaired
  • Wheelchairs provided
  • Routes and pathways for wheelchair users
  • Displays at suitable heights for wheelchair users
  • Audible and visual alarm system


  • Access to restaurant by ramps and lifts
  • Special dietary requirements
  • High chairs available
  • Children’s menus available

Prices and Opening Times


Adults – £13.00

Children – £11.00

Concessions – £11.00

Under 5’s – Free

Parking (All Day) – £2.00

Opening times

Mondays: CLOSED

Tuesday – Friday: 10:00 – 16:00

Saturday and Sunday: 10:00 – 17:00


Monday 5th May: 10:00 – 17:00

24th May – 1st June: 10:00 – 17:00

12th July – 31st August: 10:00 – 17:00

18th October – 2nd November: 10:00 – 17:00

Annual passes are available to buy.

Tickets can be purchased on arrival but can also be bought online in advance.

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