Space Industry - Licensing Spaceports

Skylon Spaceplane
Author WD Graham (GW Simulations)
Licence Reproduction licensed by the author
Source Wikipedia 

Jane Lambert

In Commercial Exploitation of Space: Space Industry Act 2018 10 April 2018 I mentioned the government's aim to expand the British share of the global space market from the present 6.5% to 10% by 2030. Much of that growth will come from the development of small satellite delivery vehicles and suborbital transports which will take off and land on conventional runways.

The development of facilities for such spacecraft is likely to stimulate local economic activity considerably.  I mentioned the cluster of aerospace businesses that is already gathering at Cornwall Airport Newquay in NIPC Cornwall this morning.  Newquay is one of a number of airports around the coast of Great Britain planning to handle space traffic.

Such facilities fall into the definition of "spaceports" provded by s.3 (2) of the Space Industry Act 2018.  S.3 (1) (b) prohibits anyone from operating a spaceport in the UK without a licence under that section.  A licence authorizing a person to operate a spaceport is known as a "spaceport licence".  According to the guidance note Operating a Spaceport in the UK published on 7 Feb 2017 a partnership between the UK Space Agency, Department for Transport and Civil Aviation Authority, supported by the Health and Safety Executive known as "The Commercial Spaceflight Team" are currently developing new regulations to licence UK spaceports.

The primary legislation under which those regulations will be made is the Space Industry Act 2018. As the statute received royal assent only on 15 March 2018 it is not surprising that regulations have yet to be published.  However, s.10 of the Act makes clear that an application for a spaceport licence may not be granted unless:
"(a) the applicant has taken all reasonable steps to ensure that risks to public safety arising from the operation of the spaceport are as low as reasonably practicable, and
(b) any prescribed criteria or requirements are met."
S.11 (2) requires applicants for spaceport licences to submit assessments of environmental effects and the regulator must take those assessments into account by virtue of s.11 (5) when deciding whether to grant a licence at all and if so on what conditions. S.13 and Sched 1 contain some of those conditions.

As spaceports are likely to attract innovative and creative new businesses whose brands, designs, technology and creative output will require legal protection I shall follow this topic closely both at national and local level. That is why I launched NIPC Cornwall today. Anyone wishing to discuss this article or the licensing of space activities in general should contact me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.


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