CAA takes on space regulator role

The regulator is open for business to any UK or international company that wants to operate under a UK space licence.

As part of its new responsibilities, the CAA is launching a fully tested digital application system that has been developed to allow space companies in all forms – commercial spaceflight technologies, satellite construction and operations, traditional vertically launched vehicles, air-launched vehicles, and balloons as well as spaceports, and range service providers – to start their licence application today.

The estimated time for the delivery of a launch licence is between 9-18 months depending on complexity and the quality of preparations by licence applicants.

The CAA expects the first launch licence will be granted next year to meet the UK Government’s ambition of the first orbital rocket launch for satellites in Europe in 2022. Industry operators will be able to hold a licence that covers multiple launches.

The regulator’s approach has been designed to help make the UK home to the world’s safest and most innovative space industries.

The UK is well-placed to capitalise on the growth of the space sector, with the right geography, business environment and a thriving industry all underpinned by a safety regulatory regime that has the highest standards of public protection, while being proportionate and enabling innovation and technology to thrive.

Working with the Department for Transport, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and the UK Space Agency, the CAA recognises its important role in the development of the UK space industry.

The licensing process will require applicants to provide a detailed assessment of safety and security considerations, including, a comprehensive safety case, an environmental assessment, financial resources, security and cyber risk mitigation.

The CAA will only regulate where it has to and will tailor its approach to meet the specific needs of each and every space mission. In doing this, the benefits of the regulation will outweigh any burden or cost imposed. This has been the case with aviation innovators and is a principle that the regulator will apply to the space industry.

A full assessment of the application, including seeking independent assurance, will then follow, before finally seeking the Secretary of State’s consent for the licence to be issued.

The CAA will also carry out monitoring and oversight as operations are conducted.

As the UK’s airspace regulator, the CAA will also handle any temporary or airspace changes required to enable space activities from UK soil to take place.

Legislation passed

As part of the changes, the UK government also passed the spaceflight regulations. As reported back in May, the new regulations pave the way for commercial space launches from UK soil, from spaceports in Scotland, Wales and England.

The government writes:

The legislation provides the framework to regulate the UK space industry and enable launches to take place from British soil for the very first time. It will unlock a potential £4 billion of market opportunities over the next decade, creating thousands of jobs and benefiting communities right across the UK.

There is more on how the government is promoting spaceflight from the UK here and more on applying for a licence (under the Outer Space Act 1986) here.

The UK Space Agency currently recognises seven spaceports. Five are in Scotland, one in Wales and one in England.

They are: Spaceport 1 (Scolpaig Farm, North Uist,Outer Hebrides, Scotland), Spaceport Machrihanish (Campbeltown, Argyll, Scotland), Prestwick Spaceport (Prestwick, South Ayrshire, Scotland), Space Hub Sutherland (A’ Mhòine peninsula, Sutherland, Scotland), Shetland Space Centre (Lamba Ness, Unst, Shetland Islands, pictured), Spaceport Snowdonia (Llanbedr, Gwynedd, Wales) and Spaceport Cornwall (Cornwall Airport, Newquay, England).

See also: Scotland, Wales, Cornwall – we have Spaceport lift-offs