Here is a summary of the key points from the House of Commons Science, Innovation and Technology Committee report on UK space strategy and UK satellite infrastructure:
- The report examines the UK’s plans to establish its first small satellite orbital launch capability from UK spaceports. This would strengthen the UK’s space industry by providing launch facilities close to UK space companies.
- It reviews the first UK orbital launch attempt by Virgin Orbit from Spaceport Cornwall in January 2023, which failed to reach orbit.
- Virgin Orbit and satellite companies criticized the UK launch licensing process as too slow, bureaucratic, and risk-averse. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) defended its process as necessarily complex for a first launch.
- The report concludes there is no evidence the licensing caused the launch failure, but improvements should be made to regulatory interfaces between the multiple bodies involved.
- It recommends the government improve licensing by: streamlining processes; better information sharing between regulators; conducting processes in parallel; establishing airspace agreements with neighboring states.
- The Space Industry Act 2018 regulations should be reviewed based on experience from the first licensing attempts.
- More cross-government coordination on space policy is needed – the National Space Council should be properly established and meet urgently.
- The long-delayed UK Positioning, Navigation and Timing strategy must be published immediately.
- The UK has world-class space capabilities but leadership and policies are needed urgently to fulfill the sector’s potential.