The UK government is taking steps to revitalise the space industry by unveiling plans for the streamlined regulation, simplified satellite launches, and adaptation to rocket companies of all sizes. The UK Space Agency is proposing an overhaul of charges for orbital operator licenses and liability charges for satellite launches. The aim is to make costs vary based on the size and specifics of individual missions, rather than being a one-size-fits-all approach.
This proposal follows significant blowback faced by the UK space industry after a failed Virgin Orbit mission earlier this year. The industry was heavily criticised, with the regulatory environment labelled as “toxic” for future launches. In response, the parliamentary committee emphasised the need for better coordination between regulatory bodies and a reduction in unnecessary complexity and administrative burdens placed on space launch companies, particularly startups.
The UK Space Agency has launched a consultation to seek input on potential reforms to the sector. Proposed changes include refunding license fees for companies that commit to sustainable practices, as well as different liability and insurance policies. The goal is to reduce risks associated with satellite operations, promote safe and sustainable practices, and ultimately lower insurance and regulatory costs for operators. These changes will also support investment in the UK space sector and improve access to finance.
The UK government is seeking views from consultees on various proposals over the next 12 weeks. Some policy positions will be implemented, while others are open to further discussion. In addition, the government is working towards establishing a space sustainability roadmap for the future, including support for the Earth & Space Sustainability Initiative (ESSI). ESSI aims to develop universal Space Sustainability Principles that can be recognised by the finance and insurance communities and policymakers worldwide.
Overall, the government’s plans reflect a commitment to enhance the efficiency, affordability, and sustainability of the UK’s space industry. By simplifying regulation, adapting to individual missions, and promoting safe practices, the aim is to stimulate growth and investment in the sector while ensuring long-term sustainability.