One small step towards spaceflight in the UK as government publishes environmental guidance

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The first-ever launch into space from British soil is now one step closer, with the government today (10 February 2021) publishing its environmental guidance for the spaceflight regulator.

A newly established consultation will also set out how the regulator, which will oversee all launch and space activity from the UK, should meet environmental objectives – helping ensure space travel fits into a modern, greener Britain.

The consultation, which will last for 6 weeks, forms part of the Space Industry Act 2018 and will pave the way for a range of commercial spaceflight and scientific endeavours to operate within the UK in the future.

As part of the government’s push to net-zero, access to space and the use of space-based technology will provide many environmental benefits. It will allow us to:

  • observe weather patterns
  • monitor climate change
  • manage natural resources
  • monitor harmful activities such as illegal deforestation, fishing and animal poaching
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Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said:

The small steps taken today show that we are committed to growing the UK space sector, cementing our role on a global scale by unlocking a new era in spaceflight for the country.

We want to capitalise on the opportunities commercial spaceflight can bring, which will feed into our national space strategy and the government’s agenda to build back better, all while improving our understanding of climate change and our world-leading efforts to tackle it.

The UK space sector has established technical expertise that already makes a significant contribution to global efforts to monitor and understand the Earth’s environment. By bringing spaceflight to UK soil, this expertise can be put to further good use, while benefitting the economy and jobs market.

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The Space Industry Act requires applicants for a spaceport or launch operator licence to submit an assessment of environmental effects as part of their application – this will form part of any decision making when it comes to licence applications and conditions.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said:

Soon we will be launching small satellites into orbit from British soil, creating new jobs and economic opportunities for communities across the UK. Like all businesses large and small, our space industry has a responsibility to make sure they play their part in tackling climate change as we get closer to making our spaceflight dreams a reality.

The steps taken today will help protect our planet for generations to come while also enabling us to seize the economic opportunities of becoming a greener space-faring economy as we build back better from the pandemic.

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