Legislation Needed for Launches to Be Released by United Kingdom Space Agency

Image of 'Cosmic Girl', a customised 747-400 aircraft, seen here releasing LauncherOne mid-air for the first time during a July 2019 drop test. Depending on the orbital trajectory of the mission, Cosmic Girl will travel anywhere between 30 minutes and four hours before reaching the deployment zone. At cruising altitude around 35,000 feet, the chief pilot releases the rocket from the pylon. The Royal Air Force (RAF) and Virgin Orbit have selected the RAF pilot to be seconded to the company’s ground-breaking small satellite launch programme. The partnership between the RAF and Virgin Orbit was unveiled at the Air and Space Power conference in July. Following a tough selection process, Air Vice-Marshal Simon ‘Rocky’ Rochelle and Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart have announced that Flight Lieutenant Mathew ‘Stanny’ Stannard had been selected. Flt Lt. Stannard is currently a Typhoon pilot with one of the RAF’s test and evaluation squadrons and is expected to join the pioneering Virgin Orbit programme next year, pending final US and UK regulatory approvals. The secondment is expected to last three years and will see Flt Lt Stannard join the fleet of expert ‘test pilots’ trialling Boeing 747-400 aircraft from which cutting-edge satellites will be launched. Flt Lt Stannard will return to the RAF with considerable skills and expertise gained from the secondment which will improve the UK’s understanding of the military uses of small satellites.

The government of the United Kingdom is scheduled to release a new set of regulations that are going to allow companies to make commercial launches from spaceports located within the borders of the United Kingdom. There was a webinar held on 22 July by the U.K. Space Agency. During that webinar, a series of virtual events were held to take the place of the well-known Farnborough International Airshow. In these webinars, a number of representatives of the government of the United Kingdom explained that they are on their way to finishing about 900 full pages of regulations that are going to deal with a lot of subjects, including cover licensing and the oversight of various launch vehicles, together with a number of launch sites.

Framework

All of these regulations add to the Space Industry Act, which was officialized in 2018. The Space Industry Act of 2018 made sure to put in place an entire legal framework made for the commercial launch activity taking place within the United Kingdom. According to Paul Cremin, who is the commercial spaceflight and the regulation policy lead for the Department of Transport, an important department within the government of the United Kingdom, the new regulations are a very important piece of legislation and these are absolutely essential when it comes to what is needed to launch anything into space from the territory of the United Kingdom.

Legal Details

He added that all of these new regulations are going to cover essentially everything, ranging from possible operators for the spaceports, to the operators that are required for the actual launch to take place when it is supposed to. Another detail that the new 900-pages document is sure to cover is the licenses that are required to launch, taking into consideration factors such as the environment, some requirements for liability and for insurance, the security and some investigation procedures that can be undertaken in case of an accident.

Melanie J. Gullett
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