Satellite Bulletin June 2017: The Queen's Speech - Securing Spaceflight in the UK

26 June 2017

Joanne Wheeler

"My government will work to attract investment in infrastructure to support economic growth. Legislation will be introduced to ensure the United Kingdom remains a world leader in new industries, including electric cars and commercial satellites".

The space industry welcomed this announcement in the Queen's Speech on 21 June 2017. The aim is to place the UK in a market-leading position to compete in the rapidly growing global space market. It is even more important for the UK to distinguish itself in the run up to Brexit.

The Foreword to the UK Space Industry Bill (previously the Draft Spaceflight Bill) comments that:

"As we prepare to leave the European Union and so refine our place in the world, we must ensure that the decisions we take now put the UK in a position to build a strong, resilient, well balanced economy that works for everyone."

The UK Government are committed to getting the regulatory framework right to take advantage of the multi-billion pound opportunity presented by the growing space market and recognise the urgency with which legislation like the Space Industry Bill is required.

The UK seeks to be the first country in Europe to provide a hub for the low cost launch of small satellites, "We want to see UK spaceports enabling the launch of small satellites from the UK, as well as sub-orbital spaceflights and scientific experiments" the Foreword continues.

The UK is a world leader in the development and manufacture of small satellites. The Government seeks to encourage this by ensuring a UK sovereign launch capability; thus providing end to end capability for small satellites. This is aligned with the Government's ambitious efforts to grow the UK's share of the global space market to 10% by 2030.

Low cost access to space will be a game-changing technology which will open up the market and commercial opportunities for small sats. The UK Government intend that licences for launch and sub-orbital activities will be granted by 2020 and offer grant funding of around £10 million to kick-start activities.

Through the Bill the UK needs to balance long term risks and liabilities with encouraging innovation, commercialisation and sector growth, and keeping those involved as safe as possible.

To do so, it will use tools such as: risk assessments; third party liability and launch insurance requirements; unlimited indemnities to the Government; and liability caps for operators. Such requirements need to be transparent, proportionate and reasonable. It is vital that the UK Government works with industry to draft the implementing regulations under the Bill detailing how such tools will be used effectively.

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