[UK Space Conference] A Turning Point for the UK’s Space Strategy: National Space Strategy and the Possibility of Space Law Revision

Warpspace Inc.
4 min readDec 9, 2023

UK Space Conference 2023 was held in Belfast, Northern Ireland from November 21 to 23, 2023. UK Space Conference 2023 is a conference event organized by UKspace, the trade association for the UK space industry. Warpspace’s CSO, Hirokazu Mori, participated in the conference and spoke at a talk session.

The UK Space Conference tends to be a domestic event, with about 80% of the participants coming from the UK, and perhaps because of this, many of the presentations were related to national security and defense. There was a scattering of global companies, but these, too, were UK-based operators such as Thales Alenia Space. This report focuses on the UK’s National Space Strategy which will be updated in 2024, that could have a significant impact on the future of the UK space business among other things.

Mori gave a presentation at a side event of the Japan-UK Space Industry Exchange.
image of booth exhibition

At this year’s UK Space Conference, it was announced that the UK’s National Space Strategy, the UK’s national space strategy, will be updated in 2024. According to the paper, the National Space Strategy (*1), published in 2021, is the UK government’s policy to inspire the next generation through cutting-edge research and to maintain the UK’s competitiveness in space science and technology. For that sake, the strategy has four pillars below,

1. to promote growth in the space sector
2. to cooperate internationally
3. to develop the UK as a science and technology powerhouse
4. to develop resilient space applications and services

Through these pillars and a 10-point plan that specifies areas of focus for the coming years, the strategy appears to aim to achieve the UK’s civilian and defense goals in space. In this update, Mori said,

It is very likely that the Space Industry Act, one of the UK’s space laws, will also be added to the updated National space strategy,”

Here is a little summary of the Space Act.

In 2018, Japan enacted the Space Activities Act, a law concerning the launch and management of satellites and other spacecraft, in response to the development of private space ventures. The Space Activities Act was enacted in response to the Outer Space Treaty (signed in 1967), which requires that “space activities of private organizations be permitted and continuously supervised by the government,” and it establishes the basic legal framework under which private organizations can launch and operate satellites only after approval by the State.

In the UK, the Outer Space Act 1986 was enacted to introduce a licensing system for launches and space activities. In conjunction with the Outer Space Act, the Space Industry Act 2018 (*2) and the Space Industry Regulation 2021 (*3) were enacted in 2018. Mori said,

“In particular, the Space Industry Regulation 2021 was published together with the UK’s space strategy at the time, and the content reflected the space strategy well,”

Like the Outer Space Act, the Space Industry Act mandates licensing for many major space activities, but according to experts, it does not specify the specific details of the licensing system, which is subject to reinforcement at a later date through secondary legislation (*4). Therefore, a careful discussion is needed on how this law will facilitate access to space for the space industry in the UK, especially for space start-ups, and how it will promote the growth of the space industry.

Against this background, an update of the UK government’s space strategy has been announced. Since such secondary legislation will reflect the UK government’s plans for funding space activities, it will be interesting to see how the current political situation in the UK, such as Brexit, may affect the UK space industry, and how the 2024 revision will affect the UK space industry.

The Space Industry Act 2018 and Space Industry Regulation 2021, which mandate licensing for many major space activities, are available in full text on the Internet (*2,3).

(*1 [GOV.UK] National space strategy)
(*2 [Reference: Space Industry Act 2018])
(*3 [Reference: Space Industry Regulation 2021])
(*4 [Reference: Northumbria University] The Space Industry Act 2018: Unlocking the UK space economy?

--

--

Warpspace Inc.

Warpspace develops “WarpHub InterSat”, an optical inter-satellite data relay service. We will realize this service for LEO Sat operators by 2025.