Satellite operators in the UK will now enjoy a new and improved licensing process that involves traffic lights. The UK Space Agency has launched a new traffic light system to make the licensing process smoother for satellite operators.
The UK Space Agency is adapting aspects of its regulatory framework to meet the regulatory challenges of the space sector now and in the future. With rapid changes to space technology there are exciting opportunities, with potentially significant benefits for the UK, as well as new types of risks that need to be managed to ensure safety, security and sustainability.
Traffic Light System
The traffic light system is a new pre-application licensing process for satellite operators. It gives prospective applicants an early indication of how likely it is that their mission would be granted a UK license. Depending on the mission, it may also result in a tailored, more streamlined application process.
This approach will be offered to all prospective license applicants and is expected to be particularly helpful to new entrants to the UK space sector. The traffic light approach has already been piloted with a selection of satellite operators who have welcomed the new system.
Third Party Liability Insurance
The UK Space Agency is also introducing a new ‘sliding scale’ policy for the in-orbit third-party liability insurance requirements it places on operators. This will help the Agency respond to the increasing variety of space risks in its consideration of license applications.
For missions such as a low risk satellite deployed from or operating below the International Space Station the requirement for the operator to hold in-orbit third party liability insurance may be reduced or waived. On the other hand, it is likely that an operator planning a higher-risk mission would need to hold a greater level of insurance than that required for standard missions.
This flexibility will help ensure that the Agency’s licensing conditions can adapt to future innovations in a way that is proportionate and responsive.
This new approach should also make it easier for operators to procure insurance for large constellations of satellites that could be used for applications such as providing internet access to remote locations across the world.
Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency Dr Graham Turnock said that they’re committed to ensuring the UK thrives in the commercial space age as part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy. That means having modern regulation that keeps us all safe while recognizing the fundamental shifts in technology that have seen the cost and size of satellites plummet and their use increase. From mega constellations to satellite launches from UK soil, there are significant opportunities for future growth and jobs in the UK space sector.