The UK government has announced plans to revitalize the space industry by streamlining regulation, simplifying satellite launches, and accommodating rocket companies of all sizes. The proposed changes by the UK Space Agency aim to overhaul orbital operator licenses and revise the liability charges for satellite launches based on the size and specifics of individual missions, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
This move comes after the UK space industry faced backlash following a failed Virgin Orbit mission earlier this year, which resulted in criticism of the industry and its regulatory environment. A parliamentary committee also highlighted the lack of coordination between numerous regulatory bodies and the unnecessary complexity and administration placed on companies in the space launch sector, particularly startups.
The Space Agency’s announcement includes a consultation on potential reforms, such as refunding license fees for companies committed to sustainable practices and introducing various liability and insurance policies. These changes aim to reduce risks associated with satellite operations, promote safety and sustainability, and lower insurance and regulatory costs for operators.
George Freeman, the minister for space at the department for science, innovation, and technology, emphasized that reforming the regulatory framework will provide responsible satellite operators with improved licensing, insurance, and financing options. The aim is to make satellite launches more affordable, less risky, and easier to finance.
The consultation also proposes alternative insurance models for satellite operators’ liability requirements, insurance coverage for end-of-life and re-entry stages of missions, and a flexible approach to setting fees for orbital operator licenses. Some policy positions will be implemented by the UK government, while others are open for input over the next 12 weeks.
Alongside these reforms, the UK government envisions a space sustainability roadmap extending beyond 2050 and supports the Earth & Space Sustainability Initiative (ESSI). The ESSI is an industry-led initiative working on developing universal Space Sustainability Principles, which are expected to be recognized by the finance, insurance, and policymaking communities worldwide.
The consultation and reform efforts by the UK government aim to create a more efficient and supportive environment for the space sector, attracting investment and promoting sustainable practices.