Rachel Maclean – 2021 Statement on Commercial Spaceflights

The statement made by Rachel Maclean, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, in the House of Commons on 8 March 2021.

On Friday 5 March 2021, I published the Government’s response to the consultations which were held in the summer and autumn of 2020 on the secondary legislation which will implement the Space Industry Act 2018. We sought views on the operability and effectiveness of the draft space industry regulations and associated guidance and supporting documents (July); as well as the Government’s approach to liabilities, insurance and charging (October). We also asked respondents to provide evidence and test the assumptions in the consultation-stage impact assessment.

This Government are committed to growing the space industry in the UK and cementing our leading role in this sector by unlocking a new era in commercial spaceflight across the UK. The draft space industry regulations, together with draft instruments covering accident investigation and appeals, will pave the way for a new commercial licensing regime for spaceflight activities from the UK. It will support safe and sustainable activities that will drive research, innovation and entrepreneurship, exploiting the unique environment of space. This will feed into our emerging national space strategy as we develop our priorities for levelling up the UK and promote the growth of this thriving sector in the long term.

We also recognise the importance of ensuring that the environment is protected from the adverse effects of spaceflight activities. This is why the Space Industry Act 2018 requires applicants for a launch or spaceport licence to submit an assessment of environmental effects as part of their application. We also published a consultation on 10 February, setting specific environmental objectives for the spaceflight regulator to take account of when considering these assessments, reinforcing Government’s wider policies towards the environment and sustainability.

Our spaceflight legislation has been designed from the outset to support commercial operations. This, together with the technology safeguards agreement signed with the US in June 2020, means that the UK is well placed to attract new commercial opportunities in this rapidly growing sector. Together with industry we set a target to grow the UK’s share of the global space market to 10% by 2030. Today we are a step closer to reaching this goal.

The Government welcome the thoughtful and detailed responses received from across the four nations of the UK. Invaluable insights were provided by those who responded to the consultation and included enthusiastic responses from schoolchildren. We are pleased to report that our modern regulatory framework was supported by the vast majority of respondents, with many applauding the flexibility of our proposed approach, which fosters adaptability through an outcomes-based focus.

The response I am sharing today sets out the ways we have adjusted the draft space industry regulations and associated guidance material to reflect, and where possible accommodate, the suggestions and recommendations made through the consultation process. We believe that this collaborative approach will not only strengthen the licensing regime we are implementing, but demonstrates the Government’s ongoing commitment to growing this exciting sector.

My Department has worked closely with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the UK Space Agency and Civil Aviation Authority to legislate for a wide range of new commercial spaceflight technologies, including traditional vertically launched vehicles, air-launched vehicles and sub-orbital spaceplanes and balloons. It is our intention to bring this legislation before the House later this year.

Next steps

Following the publication of the Government’s response I will update the House once we are ready to submit the secondary legislation for parliamentary scrutiny.