Space Industry Bill - latest progress
The Space Industry Bill which is intended to establish a regulatory framework for the UK Space Industry will enter its committee stage in the House of Commons tomorrow (Tuesday) having passed its Second Reading last week.
The bill covers the creation of a UK space port, orbital and suborbital activities and both vertical and horizontal launches from the UK. It has wide cross party and industry support and is expected to move rapidly through the last legislative stages. Probably the most controversial aspect of the bill is its skeletal nature and the broad powers given to ministers to fill in the gaps with secondary regulation and to delegate responsibilities to unnamed organisations which may or may not be publically owned. It may be that with rapidly advancing science some leeway has to be given to ministers to future proof the legislation and to avoid umpteen new acts being needed as the technology and commercial opportunities develop beyond what can currently be contemplated however the timing is unfortunate as the Brexit Bill has made the whole issue of rule by ministerial regulation a rather hot topic. It is to be hoped that the timetable for this truly important legislation is not disrupted because of this. Other issues that remain of concern are the lack of a cap on operator liability and certain environmental issues regarding both the issue of debris from objects falling to ground and the siting of the proposed space port.
It is anticipated that the Civil Aviation Authority will acquire responsibility for licensing satellites in an extension of the powers that it already has for commercial drones. Currently under the Outer Space Act 1986 the Secretary of State can license activities by UK companies in relation to space objects and outer space. The Outer Space Act is to be restricted to non UK locations once the new bill becomes law.
We are organising a space law conference for companies in the sector or interested in engaging with the sector in Durham on 6th March by which time it is anticipated that the bill will be through Parliament. We will be discussing the implications for industry in some detail. If you would like to attend please let us know.