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NSpOC and UK space sector regulation roadmap launched

A new regulatory review for space sector has been published, as UK Science and Defence Ministers launch the UK's National Space Operations Centre (NSpOC).

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Science Minister Andrew Griffith and Minister for defence Procurement James Cartlidge visited RAF High Wycombe yesterday, home to UK Space Command, to officially launch the National Space Operations Centre (NSpOC) and announce a new report published by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT).

The Space Regulatory Review establishes the key regulatory priority areas for the UK’s space sector to maintain its innovative, attractive, and competitive regulatory environment, including the importance of fostering international partnerships with spacefaring nations and incentivising world-leading sustainable practices to protect the space environment.

Developed in collaboration with over 100 industry representatives, this new report offers a unified regulatory roadmap for the future of the UK space sector and our flourishing space economy.  

The report comes as Science Minister Andrew Griffith and Defence Minister Cartlidge visited UK Space Command to launch National Space Operations Centre, which brings together almost 70 civilian and military personnel to safeguard the UK against space-related threats, risks and hazards, like satellite collisions.

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The launch of the NSpOC marks a significant milestone, as it fulfils a key commitment outlined in the government’s National Space Strategy, Defence Strategy, and the recently announced Space Industrial Plan, published in March 2024.

The NSpOC – jointly funded by DSIT/UK Space Agency and MoD with £20 million funding and in partnership with the Met Office – will use a global network of sensors to support space operations, with those on-site overseeing and delivering critical missions, from tracking an average of 20 to 30 objects re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere a month, to protecting the UK licensed satellites from collisions with space debris.

Space Minister Andrew Griffith said: "As space technology advances, it becomes increasingly intertwined with our daily lives. From precise GPS navigation to highly localised weather forecasting, we rely upon space to underpin critical sectors of our economy.

"The launch of the National Space Operations Centre today is a further advance in our space capabilities and our commitment to keep our nation safe and secure.

"Space may be the ‘final frontier’, but we need to ensure sustainable access. The UK is one of the space faring nations whose pioneering efforts to track and remove hazardous space junk and well-designed space regulations have a key role to play."

Minister for Defence Procurement James Cartlidge said: "This government is working to develop and protect a robust domestic commercial space sector. Space offers incredible opportunities for our prosperity but there are also risks.

"The National Space Operations Centre will help to protect our national interests, supported by military personnel working in close collaboration with colleagues across government."

The report provides clarity and certainty for the UK space sector, its investors and the global space community by focusing on three core objectives: identifying regulatory gaps and opportunities; prioritising safety, security and sustainability and supporting government objectives to maintain UK leadership in modern space regulations.

The report has identified seven outcomes, that if fully implemented, would deliver the greatest impact for the UK’s space sector and wider economy:

  1. Agility – greater, more responsive coordination across government departments and regulators.
  2. Innovation - a dynamic framework that supports novel and emerging missions and technologies.
  3. Growth - a progressive regulatory framework that encourages investment.
  4. International Partnerships - a multilateral alliance of spacefaring nations with aligned frameworks and international best practice.
  5. Safety and Sustainability - incentivising sustainable space activities, protecting the space environment and its celestial bodies.
  6. Accessibility - a coherent suite of primary and secondary space legislations and clear published guidance.
  7. National Interest - a civil and commercial space regulatory framework that supports UK national security.

Industry stakeholders in the UK space sector have strongly endorsed the review, emphasising the critical importance of regulatory confidence in driving growth, innovation, and sustainability. With this support and a unified regulatory roadmap in place, the UK is poised to lead the way in safe, secure, and sustainable space operations on the global stage.

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Dr Paul Bate, CEO of the UK Space Agency, said: "The launch of the National Space Operations Centre is a flagship example of civil and military cooperation and demonstrates the UK commitment to keeping space safe and sustainable. Together with the publication of the government’s Space Regulations Review, this is a major milestone in the delivery of the National Space Strategy and a clear signal of the UK’s ambitions to be a leading space nation.

Nick Shave, UKspace IOSM Committee Chair said: "The government has performed a detailed space regulatory consultation with many stakeholders in the space sector including industry and academia. This open approach has been very much welcomed by the sector. Leading on from the consultation, this Space Regulatory Review Report provides a clear, actionable way forward across 7 priority areas that, when implemented, promise to create the enabling regulatory environment that we need to unleash the industrial capability in fast growing areas of the global space sector such as In-Orbit Servicing and Manufacturing (IOSM) where the UK is poised to become a world leader."

Imogen Ormerod, Energy and Infrastructure Associate, Linklaters LLP said: "We welcome the findings of the UK space regulatory review and its alignment with the national space sector vision, including its focus on innovation, growth, and sustainability. In particular, we expect the emphasis on regulatory agility and coordination across regulators and government to support our clients’ growth ambitions, enhancing the competitiveness of the UK space industry and attracting further investment into the sector. We look forward to helping our clients to continue to capitalise on this opportunity."

John Hanley, Chair of UK Space (CGI) said: "If the UK is to achieve our shared objectives for a growing and globally competitive space sector, we must have a forward-leaning, proportionate and agile approach to regulation. The Space Regulatory Review, which was conducted with close engagement between the government and stakeholders in industry and academia, sets out a series of welcome outcomes and actions that will help to deliver this goal."

Joanne Wheeler MBE, Director Earth and Space Sustainable Initiative, Co-Chair Spaceflight, Safety Regulatory Council, Managing Director, Alden Legal said: "The UK has a strong reputation for law, regulation and policy across industries to catalyse investment and growth. The space industry has called upon the government to further support it through enabling, agile, growth-driven, sustainability-focused regulation, and through the Space Regulatory Review the government has stepped up. The UK now needs to be bold and proficient in its implementation of the outcomes of this review, in an increasingly competitive international environment, anticipate innovation and lead."

Alan Thompson, Head of Government Affairs at Skyrora, said: "Skyrora would like to congratulate DSIT, DFT, DBT on the publication of the Space Industry Act 2018 Review. Skyrora, right from our early days, has been seeking to create the 'right' relationship with the space regulatory community, because we understand that due to the innovative nature of our industry, we need to be able to take regulators on our journey with us. That is why we have pursued the idea of de-risking launch and sought at every opportunity to engage, provide feedback and support.

"The engagement process and the opportunity to be actively engaged throughout the deliberation of not only feedback about the Space Industry Act 2018 but above all the ability to 'do it better' and be encouraged to do so, is key. The overwhelmingly positive institutional transformation of the regulator the CAA over the last year, that has been supported and encouraged and now placed at the core (cornerstone) of this review cannot be understated. And on top of that, the recognition of all the HM Government Departments involved, that each one of them has a critical role to play as part of a team in enabling Space, this is the main deliverable of this review.

"It is not the finite report as an output that we [at Skyrora] are congratulating, it is rather the change and dynamic in place reflected in it, which will further deliver additional coordinated support and understanding to the Space industry in the United Kingdom and allow both industry and regulator collectively to leap forward and speed up on our trajectory to greater prosperity, driving and informing skills, to greater scientific driven transformation."

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