Report: UK Should Learn from U.S. and Isle of Man

A report from the London-based Economic Policy Centre recommends that the United Kingdom deepen cooperation with other space powers, emulate the Isle of Man’s approach to space commerce, and learn from the United States’ experience in licensing commercial spaceports.

The report, titled “Space: Britain’s New Frontier,” was authored by former American Rocket Company (AMROC) President James C. Bennett. It recommends that the UK deepen cooperation with Europe, the United States, and Commonwealth nations (Australia, Canada and India) that have space capabilities.

  1. The UK should broaden its cooperative perspective beyond Europe – 75% of funds are currently allocated to the European Space Agency.
  2. The new UKSA must seek to take advantage of NASA’s international cooperative programmes which the UK has failed to do in the past
  3. The Commonwealth States – Australia, Canada and India – all have areas of space expertise which the UK could successfully cooperate on,
  4. Therefore the UK should aim to cooperate with Canada which has expertise in radar imaging satellites
  5. And with Australia which has extensive launch ranges
  6. As well as with India which has across the board capabilities including launch vehicles, satellites and now interplanetary probes
  7. The UKSA should send key personnel to Ottawa for an extended stay at the Canadian Space Agency to study what a small-to-medium scale agency can accomplish
  8. The UK should explore collaboration with Canada and Australia on dual-use (civil and military) space technologies and systems like communications and earth observations satellites to leverage UK defence investments in space and the high level of trust of the USA on technology-export issues
  9. The UK should seek to learn and copy from the Isle of Man’s favourable operating environment for space commerce
  10. The UK should seek to develop a civil regulatory framework for spaceflight and space activity that attracts capital from all round the world
  11. The UK should seek to actively learn from the USA’s deep experience of licensing launch sites and spaceports with a view to the future licensing of sites like Lossiemouth in Scotland.

Bennett also sees the UK as playing a key role in the emerging commercial space sector:

  • Virgin Galactic illustrates the diversity of the New Space; British management and marketing, American technology and initial manufacture and Emirates financing
  • With a spaceport under construction already in the USA and more planned in Britain, Australia and the Emirates
  • Britain is now poised to play at a higher level as Space is no longer the sole domain of large state enterprises
  • And the UK can bring to the table its still formidable strengths in conventional aerospace, global perspective, marketing, financial and business acumen
  • Essential to this success is the design of an appropriate regulatory framework and clear policy direction

The key will be learning from the American experience in setting up regulatory structures.

Missing – A Competitive Space Regulatory Environment:

  • A new more assertive, multidirectional space policy will remain stymied until adequate policy discussion about how to entice Virgin Galactic and other space entrepreneurs to begin suborbital services in the UK
  • Initial steps required include the development of a civil regulatory framework ideally based on – but not identical to – the substantial history since 1983 of civil space regulations in the USA
  • The regulatory framework must be predictable, sensible, provide reasonable guarantees of safety and make the UK a venue of choice for space operations
  • All this must be borne in mind for Britain’s first spaceport which may be at Lossiemouth

Read the full report.