Regulating commercial spaceflight in the UK

A guide on what to expect from the new regulations under the Space Industry Act 2018, which are due to come into effect in 2021 and will enable commercial spaceflight to be carried out from the UK

29 April 2021

The UK’s strategy for space

The UK Government has ambitious plans for the UK space sector, with a target to grow the UK’s share of the global market for space from 5.1 per cent to 10 per cent by 2030. A key part of these plans is the development of a UK spaceflight programme, which will enable commercial vertical and horizontal launches of small satellites and sub-orbital spaceplanes and balloons from UK spaceports for the first time.

A legislative framework for UK commercial spaceflight

Safe and sustainable growth of the UK spaceflight sector requires efficient and effective regulation. In March 2018, the UK Space Industry Act 2018 ('SIA 2018') was enacted to create a high-level framework to enable commercial spaceflight and associated activities to take place from the UK, but it is reliant on detailed secondary legislation to bring it into force and to flesh out the regulatory framework.

The Government aims to put this framework in place in 2021. Between July and October 2020, it consulted on the draft implementing regulations and accompanying guidance, and it conducted further consultations on liabilities, insurance and charging proposals in October 2020 and the regulator’s environmental objectives in February 2021. Following the publication of the joint outcome of the first two consultations on 5 March 2021, a clear picture is now emerging of what UK spaceflight regulation will look like.

What's next for UK spaceflight - a guide

In this guide, Chris Chesterman and Keith Beattie look ahead at what businesses planning to participate in UK spaceflight and associated activities can expect from the new regime, based on what has been published so far and the overarching requirements of the SIA 2018. We will produce a follow-up to this guide once the regulations have been finalised, to reflect the modifications resulting from the consultations.

We have focused on the following key areas of interest for operators and other prospective licensees:

  • What the government has published so far
  • How the new regulatory regime will interact with the Outer Space Act 1986
  • The appointment of a new regulator for spaceflight activities
  • Licensing of spaceflight and associated activities
  • The duties of licensees
  • Training, qualifications and medical fitness requirements for licensees
  • Liability and insurance in relation to spaceflight risks
  • Physical, personnel and cyber security
  • Investigation of spaceflight accidents
  • Monitoring and enforcement
  • Appeals against regulator decisions

For further information

The economic advantages of moving quickly to unlock commercial spaceflight in the UK are clear, and there is much that operators can do to prepare themselves before the regime comes into effect.

If you would like to discuss the draft regulations or any associated matters further, please contact Chris Chesterman or Keith Beattie.

To find out more about our expertise in the space sector, visit our Space and Satellites page.

Key contact

Chris Chesterman

Chris Chesterman Partner

  • Commercial
  • Projects
  • Defence

Regulating commercial spaceflight in the UK

Space and Satellites

Our space and satellite lawyers advise on complex and high-value space projects and the legal and commercial issues affecting customers, service providers, manufacturers and funders in the sector.
Find out more