Government backs plans for UK spaceport

Commercial space flights could launch from a UK spaceport as part of range of measures designed to help shape the future of Britain’s growing space industry.

The Government Response to the Space Innovation and Growth Strategy (IGS) Action Plan 2014 – 2030 and the National Space Security Policy (NSSP) set out plans to achieve a £40bn UK space industry by 2030 and a coherent approach to protecting the UK’s space assets.

In a statement David Willetts, minister for universities and science, said: ‘The space sector continues to thrive, and is one of our Eight Great Technologies with the potential to propel UK growth.

‘Space industries already support 95,000 full time jobs and generate £9.1bn for the economy each year, and our response to the Growth Action Plan shows our commitment to secure its future growth and realise ambitions to develop a viable UK space port for commercial space flight.’

The government said it has broadly welcomed the suggestions made in the IGS and in addition to committing stronger support for export and agreeing further work to improve regulatory framework for space activity, the response also incorporates measures to create and sustain new business in related markets.

The National Space Security Policy sets out an approach to the UK’s space security interests, outlining measures to make Britain more resilient to the risk of disruption to space services and capabilities. It is also intended to enhance national security interests through space, promote a safe and more secure space environment, and enable industry and academia to exploit science and grasp commercial opportunities.

Philip Dunne, minister for defence equipment, support and technology, said: ‘This policy is about galvanising our skills, our resources and our raw talent to promote resilience to the risks of operating in space – in both the civilian and military spheres.’

In implementing the National Space Security Policy, some of the early priorities will include mapping the UK’s dependency on space across government, critical infrastructure and key industrial sectors and assessing the extent of resilience in each of these fields. There will also be collaboration across government and with national and international partners to share capability where it is possible to do so, particularly in the fields of tracking space debris and near Earth objects.

 Actions emerging from the IGS include:

  • The Government will finalise the changes to the Outer Space Act limit on third party liability as soon as possible, and the UK Space Agency will review the UK approach to regulation of cubesats and other small satellites. This will improve the UK space sector’s international competitiveness.
  • The UK Space Agency will simplify the process of obtaining satellite licenses, including working with Ofcom to see if a commitment to a swifter and more seamless process could be delivered and reviewing the economic cost of delivering the space licensing regime and fees.
  • Government will continue work to deliver a regulatory environment that promotes enterprise and inward investment in the UK. This response acknowledges the challenges of a global market and the Government will work with new entrants into the market to ensure that inward investment means the creation of jobs and returns for the UK economy.
  • In July 2014, the UK Space Agency will issue the first results from the work of a cross-government National Space Flight Coordination Group that was set up to take forward the ambition of developing a UK space port and starting commercial space flight from the UK.
  • The UK Space Agency will double the funding level of the UK Space for Smarter Government Programme annually from April 2014. The programme will unlock the potential of space to make the delivery of public sector services more effective and efficient.