UK Spaceport plans complicated by regulations

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The UK is keen on establishing so-called Spaceports, whether in Scotland or the West of England. It has just signed a Treaty-level agreement with the US which allows use of US-built rockets from British locations.

The UK’s Space Agency (UKSA) says that a US-UK Technology Safeguards Agreement (TSA) agreed in June potentially opens up activity from the likes of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit launch vehicle. Virgin has already signed a deal with Spaceport Cornwall, for example, and which is targeting a UK-based launch in 2022.

However, the US/UK treaty has just a few complications.  Spaceport Cornwall, for example, very much wanted a ‘light touch’ as far as regulations are concerned. Their anxiety is that if the Spaceport is hamstrung with heavyweight regulations then costs will make the site uncompetitive.

The treaty agreement will be subject to UK parliamentary ratification and approval.

The challenge for the British would-be spaceports is working with the likely regulations, but that might create complex legal and managerial problems. The proposed regulations have yet to be published but are reported to extend to some 900 pages of rules and demands.


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