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The Space Race Desperately Needs to Be Regulated

  • The UK is committed to regulating the space sector to protect space for all.
  • The Space Regulatory Review Report outlines how the UK plans to keep pace with rapidly evolving space technologies.
  • The UK's National Space Operations Centre will ensure the safety and security of space assets.
Space Junk

The government will make sure Britain sets the global standard for regulating space technology and exploration, giving this growing sector the clarity and certainty it needs to thrive, says Andrew Griffith

As humanity’s quest for knowledge and exploration extends beyond the confines of Earth, we stand on the edge of a new era – one where the boundless expanse of space beckons us with promise.

From the historic launch from UK soil to our improved connectivity across the country, we are witnessing the rapid expansion of a vibrant space sector.

Space has always captivated the human imagination, representing the pinnacle of human scientific achievement and the boundless possibilities that lie beyond our atmosphere. However, it is not just the realm of science fiction; space forms an integral part of our daily lives, underpinning critical sectors such as communications, navigation, weather forecasting and our national security. As our reliance on space technology deepens, it becomes imperative that we chart a course that ensures its sustainable and responsible use.

Britain is growing as a space power. Our satellite industry is growing fast, contributing to the almost 9,000 satellites still functioning within the Earth’s orbit, while we will soon be home to two launch sites, with SaxaVord in the Shetlands joining Spaceport Cornwall as destinations for European launches in the coming years. All of this adds up to a sector that is now worth £17.5bn and employs almost 50,000 people – with a labour productivity 2.5 times the UK average in 2020.

However, an additional opportunity for the UK to further boost our global leadership role in space lies in an area not often talked about – regulation.

With geopolitical tensions rising, space junk clogging up Earth’s orbit and as advancements in technology mean more satellites orbiting our planet than ever before, smart regulation will be absolutely vital in protecting space for all of us.

Our government takes this seriously, which is why today we have published the Space Regulatory Review Report, setting out how we can better regulate the space sector to ensure we keep pace with rapidly evolving technologies, fostering a regulatory environment that encourages innovation and the safe, secure and sustainable use of space.

I want the UK to set the global standard for space regulation, further cementing our position as a key player in space and giving our world-class space ecosystem the clarity, certainty and confidence they need to compete on the global stage. This will enable the UK to be one of the best places on Earth to start, scale up and run a space business.

However, regulation alone will not protect us from every space-based threat, nor will it provide every solution to advancing space technology.

Our eyes are open to the challenge – and our new National Space Operations Centre that we have launched with the Ministry of Defence today marks a significant step forward in ensuring the safety and security of our space assets.

Navigating the complexities of space requires a unified effort, and together we can address emerging threats, and safeguard the long-term sustainability of space for future generations.

The steps we are taking today represent significant milestones in our journey towards unlocking the full potential of the UK’s space industry.

By prioritising innovation, safety, security, and sustainability in our regulatory regime, and unifying our Space Command structure under one roof with the launch of the National Space Operations Centre, I am confident that the UK will not only maximise the opportunities but also be more resilient to the challenges of the future.

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This way, we are ensuring that the benefits of space are shared by all, while safeguarding our country’s security, guaranteeing that our activities in space leave a positive legacy for generations to come.

Andrew Griffith is science, research and innovation minister

By CityAM

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