The University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Observatory in Macclesfield has received development funding of £784,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund in order to progress a £12.1m funding bid for the First Light project.
First Light aims to conserve and restore the heritage of the Jodrell Bank site and develop a pavilion to house a new visitor's centre.
The HLF has said that it supports the university's £12.1m grant application, which means that HLF believes that the project meets criteria for funding and has potential to deliver high-quality benefits and value for Lottery money.
The project now has up to two years to submit fully developed proposals to secure a firm award
Jodrell Bank Observatory is the home of the Lovell Telescope and operates e-MERLIN, the UK's national radio astronomy facility comprising seven radio telescopes spread over 217 km and connected by an optical fibre network.
The site includes the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, which features exhibitions on topics from cosmology to the search for life, including the work of the Lovell Telescope and others around the world.
According to the university, Jodrell Bank is an internationally important place in the heritage of astronomy and is the only site remaining in the world that shows the whole history of the development of radio astronomy, the first step towards the field of modern astrophysics.
Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Manchester, said: "We are incredibly proud of our current science and great heritage at The University of Manchester and of our iconic site at Jodrell Bank. The announcement today is great news, not only for the University, but for our city-region and the UK-wide science community."
Sara Hilton, head of HLF North West, said: "Jodrell Bank is a remarkable and world famous site. These initial proposals are ambitious and inspiring; they will encourage people to learn about and celebrate the UK's longstanding tradition of innovation in science, technology and engineering. The 'First Light' project has a clear focus on volunteering, skills and learning and we know that it will make a big difference in reaching out to a wide range of people, including those of school age."