Outer Space Law: Lack of Regulation at the International Level Poses a Risk to Future Space Activity

5th Aug 2022
Outer Space Law: Lack of Regulation at the International Level Poses a Risk to Future Space Activity

EDITORS’ NOTE: In this second article examining the lag in space law behind the reality of today’s commercial and governmental use of that environment, the international aspects of this problem come under the microscope. The editors would like to thank Rachael O’Grady of Mayer Brown International LLP for the insight she shares with us here on such matters.

In response to the evolution of the commercial space industry, governments from space-faring nations across the globe have worked persistently to create the necessary laws and legal safeguards to enable the sector to prosper. This has meant putting in place mechanisms at a domestic level both to regulate, on the one hand, and to protect, on the other hand, commercial entities and individuals operating in the space industry. So far, this has worked well – as reflected by the eruption of human activity in space over the past decades without significant issue.

The pace of mankind’s extra-terrestrial activity is not slowing. This pace, of course, should be encouraged – space-derived technologies are now an integral part of our everyday existence, and new breakthroughs are bound to benefit us all. But while, until now, the domestic laws of various countries have kept space faring operators in check, the more advances that are made and the greater the level of activity in space, the more stretched these national laws and regulations will become. This is because a point will, eventually, be reached when governments will simply not be able to regulate certain space activities without running the risk of putting themselves in breach of international law.

International space law concerns the overarching legal framework that governs and regulates nation States themselves – in contrast to the laws passed, in turn, by individual States, to govern the activities of their citizens. While the evolution in outer space activity over the past few decades has been mirrored by the passing of national legislation in numerous countries, international space law remains in long-overdue need of reform. Indeed, as mentioned in our previous article, the Outer Space Treaty (“OST”), and the other Space Treaties linked to it, were put in place when many of mankind’s current space endeavours could not even have been imagined. It is for this reason that, inevitably, international space law is problematic from the perspective of the modern space age. This is the case in three principal respects:

Filling in Gaps in Space Law

International space law contains gaps. Many of today’s extra-terrestrial endeavours are simply not covered by, or do not fall within the scope of, the Space Treaties. Until now, these gaps have not mattered, as no activity has existed which would have fallen within them – but this has changed, and it is continuing to do so. For example, no rules exist at the international level to regulate the creation of space waste, and only very limited rules exist to govern liability in space. As businesses come to have an increasing physical presence in orbit, both of these holes in the international legal regime will eventually need filling in order to de-risk future space missions and generate investor confidence. Such regulation must come into play on the international plane in order to have any meaningful effect; unless all States are bound at the international level, there would be limited value in any unitary domestic legislation on such matters.

Space Law and Commercialisation

As the commercial space industry has developed, many of the provisions which do exist in the text of the Space Treaties simply do not accord with the realities of the modern space age. For example, private commercial entities operating in space would presumably not like the fact that any ‘stations, installations, equipment and space vehicles’ which private operators deploy ‘on the Moon and other celestial bodies‘ must remain open to inspection at all times by representatives of other State Parties. In an industry which lends itself to confidentiality and trade secrets, this is unlikely to be an appealing prospect. Of more gravity (for space mining companies at least) is a provision in the OST prohibiting ownership of space resources. While this safeguard was necessary when the Space Treaties were signed, in the midst of the Cold War, it is only inevitable that in time, as Earth’s resources decline and mining technologies develop, outer space will provide a natural and obvious alternative source of supply for many metals and minerals. Rules need to be enacted to properly govern the extraction and exploitation of such resources if an extra-terrestrial gold rush is to be avoided.

Preventing fragmentation

International space law has become subject to numerous and varying interpretations, motivated by different commercial and political agendas. Taking the example mentioned above, Article II of the OST states that “Outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.” While many have taken this to mean, strictly, that it is not possible to own resources mined in space, others have argued, more liberally, that “national appropriation” does not extend to private companies or individuals and that this prohibition only applies in a territorial sense and does not cover mineral extraction. The juxtaposition between these two interpretations, at polar opposite ends of the spectrum to each other, demonstrates that clarity is needed to prevent what could otherwise become an extremely problematic scenario in the future. Some States have already attempted to deal with this specific issue by themselves; there are several examples of governments having passed unilateral domestic laws affirming that their citizens will be entitled to keep and/or exploit any resources which they are able to successfully procure from space. Such unilateral legislating in itself presents a further problem; with no clarity at the international level, there is a danger that increasing numbers of nation States will simply go ahead and pass their own laws on issues of international concern, based on their own diverging interpretations of the Space Treaties. This will result in the global fragmentation of space law at the domestic level, which is unlikely to be helpful in the long run and which will almost certainly make ultimate international consensus – arguably the only meaningful way forward – impossible.

In brief

International space law needs updating. While States have to date coped with this by putting in place their own regulations, this is not a long-term solution, and certainly not a cohesive one. Doing business in space is already high risk on many levels. If it possible to make the monumental technological advances that have been achieved in recent years, it should also be possible – and it is indeed necessary – to make similar breakthroughs at the legal level.

Outer Space law is woefully out of date

1st Jul 2022
Outer Space law is woefully out of date

EDITORS’ NOTE: This article on the antiquarian state of space law begins Orbital Today’s deeper examination of the underpinning of commercial space. The editors would like to thank Rachael O’Grady of Mayer Brown International LLP for the insight she shares with us here.

In an industry as fast-paced as that of space, with new technological breakthroughs being made on a constant basis, and as we continually find ourselves on the cutting edge of what is humanly possible in orbit, it is somewhat ironic that the laws governing these activities remain the polar opposite; utterly pale in comparison, like antiquated relics, in (well-overdue) need of reform.

Not all laws – over recent years, governments from space-faring nations across the globe have worked hard to respond to the evolution of the commercial space industry and to foster investment and innovation within their respective jurisdictions. They have done so by legislating, in order to ensure that their domestic legal frameworks provide players operating in the space sector with adequate legal assurance. This has led to a boom of activity in certain ‘space friendly’ jurisdictions.

However, it is the laws that bind nation States themselves, and their respective governments, which is where the issue lies. Indeed, the international legal order governing human activity in outer space was put in place in an era which is, from today’s space-conscious perspective, totally unrecognisable. In the midst of the Cold War, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty (“OST”), was urgently concluded by politicians from around the globe in an attempt to preserve outer space as the “common heritage of mankind“, accessible to all, on an equal basis. In the face of Soviet aggression, it was also designed to prevent outer space from becoming used for non-peaceful purposes. Four other supplementary treaties quickly followed the OST; (i) the Rescue Agreement of 1968, covering the rescue of astronauts and other objects from outer space, (ii) the Liability Convention of 1972, concerning international liability for damage caused by space objects, (iii) the 1976 Registration Convention, mandating the registration of objects launched into outer space, and (iv) the 1984 Moon Agreement, in order to govern the activities of States on the moon and elsewhere (although, to date, this latter instrument has not been adopted by any of the main space-faring nations and has therefore not come to have any meaningful effect).

These ‘Space Treaties’ still, today, continue to underpin all human activity in outer space. Yet the era in which they were promulgated meant that they were designed to serve a different purpose to the needs of the modern space industry; their authors could not have ever imagined the extent to which mankind, including private entities and individuals (and not just State actors, as in the 1960s) are now dominating the outer space scene, let alone the endless feats that have been achieved over the last 50 years. While the Space Treaties have served – and continue to serve – their purpose, there is no doubt that they are creatures of their time; they are not in sync with the modern space age. For example, matters such as ownership rights over space-derived resources, orbital traffic control, and management of space waste – all of which are at the top of the discussion board of the space-faring community – are not even mentioned within their provisions. On the contrary, the OST guarantees “free access to all areas” to all States, without discrimination, and it prohibits “national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means“. Before long, this is likely to pose an issue; for example, those seeking to commercially exploit space resources will inevitably want to ensure that they have legal title and rights to any extra-terrestrial resources they manage to procure. As orbit becomes increasingly congested, the provisions of the Liability Convention (and the gaps within them revealed by today’s space age) would also benefit from reform.

Efforts to reach unanimous global accord on an updated, international legal framework to govern space activity have been hampered by an inherent difficulty: finding unified, global consensus between nations with space programs of differing maturities and with significantly varying national budgets. As human activity in space continues, and mankind’s reliance on space-derived technologies becomes ever more cemented into our daily lives, it is crucial that the international legal and space-faring communities afford more attention to these issues. Parallels can be drawn with climate change in this respect, where international accord was delayed due to differing political agendas and, ultimately, the Paris Agreement was reached at a point when, in many respects, it was already too late. Let’s not make the same mistake with space, before we have even really got there .

Greener Fuels and Less Waste: Striving for Sustainable Space Flight.

30th Sep 2021
Greener Fuels and Less Waste: Striving for Sustainable Space Flight.

A long time has passed since space was first dubbed “the final frontier”. With technology evolving at a neck-breaking speed space has ceased being the stuff of science fiction and is now more accessible than ever, as long as your bank account can handle the cost. Moreover, you don’t even have to leave the atmosphere to feel the impact that the space industry has had on the world. We utilise and enjoy gifts given to us by space-related technologies every day in the form of GPS, weather forecasts, satellite TV, the internet, and countless others. However, as more and more people are starting to pay closer attention to the broader problem of sustaining Earth as humanity’s only home in the universe (so far), sustainability of space travel and exploration has become a major issue as well.

Is sustainability achievable?

At a first glance sending huge chunks of metal into space by burning tons upon tons of fuel doesn’t seem like something that can even theoretically become more sustainable. The launch phase has historically been, and still remains, the most environmentally harmful stage of any space mission. The fuel needed to launch SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket into orbit leaves almost 336 tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere after burning, which is about as much CO2 as 15 cars produce during their entire lifespan, on average. Additionally, the things we launch into space more often than not can never be used again – they will either burn up during reentry, like most fuel tanks and boosters do, or stay in orbit as plain old trash after their operational period is over. The environmental footprint of launch pads and spaceports has also come under scrutiny in the more recent years, as more and more of them are needed and are being built.

What is making this issue even more severe is the fact that we are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of space launches, as commercial spaceflight has become a major contributing factor. There were around 110 total launches in 2020, but some experts estimate that reaching 1,000 and more yearly launches is quite possible in the near future. If this increase happens with no regard to the environment and without using cutting-edge green technologies the impact on the planet can be disastrous. Therefore sustainable rocket fuels and reusable rockets are the top priorities for greener space travel right now.

Taking a look at rocket fuels

Modern spacecraft use a variety of propellants, but the majority of launches rely on fossil fuels. Hydrogen fuel has been looked at as the greener option, and it is what is used by both NASA and some private companies, like Blue Origin. Manufacturing liquid hydrogen is an extremely energy-consuming process, however, and since humanity is far from relying on purely renewable sources of energy this adds to the overall carbon footprint of these launches. A brand new approach is needed to tackle this problem, and the UK-based privately-owned space company Skyrora has developed just that. Their proprietary fuel Ecosene is manufactured by utilising an innovative plastic recycling method and surpasses kerosene by its energy characteristics. This solves two problems at the same time – recycling the plastic pile up here on Earth while producing highly sought-after rocket fuel.

Waste on Earth, waste in space

Reducing the amount of waste is another approach that must be taken to ensure that the space industry becomes greener. Rockets, boosters and fuel tanks most often either burn up during launch or re-entry or can be used merely a few more times before they are discarded. The satellites and other objects we leave in orbit are also becoming an issue since we currently have no option to service or even decommission them in a safe and consistent way. The amount of old and defunct satellites in orbit will reach a critical point soon, so companies that launched them should be responsible for their removal as well.

Steps to fight excessive waste in the space industry are already being taken. The above-mentioned Falcon 9 launch vehicle can theoretically be reused up to 100 times. Building more modules with reusability in mind is crucial for the future of space exploration. Furthermore, the European Space Agency has contracted the Swiss start-up company ClearSpace SA for the first-ever space mission to remove an item of space debris in orbit. This mission is scheduled to take place in 2025. This is only a small part of the ESA’s Clean Space initiative and the agency itself states that “scientific models estimate that there are around 900 000 objects larger than a marble in orbit around Earth, and more than 128 million objects larger than 1 mm”.

Organised initiatives

The European Space Agency launched the Clean Space initiative back in 2012 to consider the environmental impact of the entire lifecycle of space missions. They aim to address the environmental impact of space launches, the future production of space debris and the removal of the debris that is already present. NASA also has similar programs and initiatives in place.


One more way that the space industry can help offset its impact on the environment is by developing new technologies. If a new alloy or material is developed for space exploration that can be later used on Earth to reduce emissions in other sectors then that goes a long way towards making the space industry more sustainable. Space-related research has already produced incredible results, and will only continue to do so in the future. Even tracking and measuring the climate crisis would be impossible without using satellite technology.

What can we do to help?

We still have a long way to go to make space travel a sustainable reality for humanity. While some advances, like the ones listed above, are being made in this field, overall it is still a very pressing issue. One variable that is missing from the equation is governmental policy. Companies like Skyrora and ClearSpace SA can only go so far on their own, and while space agencies like ESA and NASA are government-funded, more involvement is definitely required. Countries and governments must start setting regulations and developing sustainability-focused frameworks for space activities. If more worldwide cooperation is established and eco-initiatives in space companies start receiving more support and funding we might very well see the start of sustainable space travel in our lifetimes. Seeing how a lot of the necessary technologies already exists, we should encourage our governments to do just that.

New CEO at the helm of UK Space Agency

27th Aug 2021
New CEO at the helm of UK Space Agency

Dr Paul Bate has been appointed as the new CEO of the UK Space Agency (UKSA). His position was approved by the Minister for Science, Research, and Innovation, Amanda Solloway. Dr Bate will start his new role in September, and the space community is beginning to wonder what this means for the future of the UK space industry. 

The Man

Having studied particle physics at universities in Manchester and Paris, Dr Bate then would go on to get a PhD in the subject in Hamburg before embarking on a decorated career in the healthcare industry, working across both commercial and public sectors. 

Notably, Dr Bate worked as a civil servant under two UK Prime Ministers, Tony Blair and David Cameron. Highlights from his career include: Working as the Managing Director for NHS services at Babylon; being a member of the Care Quality Commission board; and working as David Cameron’s Senior Health and Adult Care advisor between 2011 and 2013.

Dr Bate has a credible reputation and an extraordinary working background. However, considering his previous appointments that have centred around healthcare, what does this spell for the UKSA?

Upon the announcement in June 2021, current UKSA CEO, Dr Graham Turnock, stated:

“Leading this organisation is a job in a million – and I am honoured to have worked with the exceptional UK Space Agency team for four years. In those four years, we have seen our agency and our sector achieve more than anyone could have expected. As we stand on the threshold of a new and exciting chapter in our history as a space-faring nation, Paul’s insights and experience promise to deliver more great things for the UK in space.”

The Mission

With a solid track record of success behind him, Dr Bate joins the UKSA at a crucial period as billions of pounds worth of investment flood into the UK space industry. So, what does Dr Bate have to offer the star gazing nation?

Well, Dr Bate has described the space sector as one that is “vital for critical infrastructure, defence, and economic growth”, noting that it is a field that “ignites the imagination” of the public. Given the current upward trajectory of government and commercial space programmes, he’s not wrong.

At present the UK has several major space projects in place, with the development of several UK-based spaceports and a major satellite mega-constellation being at the forefront of these efforts. Whilst his appointment may lead some to question whether or not UK space will be geared more towards healthcare, the reality is that Dr Bates is considerably talented at growth, in both private and public sectors. 

Amanda Solloway highlighted: 

“Paul has an impressive track record of working with private and public sector providers to deliver growth and value for money, and to use new digital technology in new, accessible and cost-effective ways. These are exactly the skills we need as we seek not just to grow our space sector, but to ensure that the benefits of our drive to cement the UK as a world-leading space nation reach all our communities.”

UKSA Projects

Let’s now take a look at what is currently underway in the UK space sector, and it seems only appropriate to begin with the healthcare sector. 

Healthcare Solutions: In April of 2021, the UKSA announced that it would be working with EU space agencies to develop new services to support high-tech developments in hospitals.

Both the UKSA and European Space Agency (ESA) have pledged £5 million of funding to the Hampshire Together programme. The project is a part of the UKs Health Infrastructure Plan that includes the development of 30 new hospitals in England by 2030.

According to reports, tech firms are being encouraged to provide proposals for ‘space mission inspired’ services and technologies. These will be reviewed by experts from all the aforementioned parties. The experts will pay special attention to ideas that are centred on the development and design of services to support these new hospitals and their respective communities        

The potential scope of the project is rather huge, especially in the wake of Covid-19, as these proposals could lead to the creation of new telemedicine and e-health solutions, including diagnostic tools, drones, supply chain innovations, and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.

First of all, a new facility in Hampshire will be the testing grounds for pioneering technologies, which the ESA suggests could include the integration of tech that was first leveraged on International Space Station (ISS) missions.

Earth Observation: In a joint effort between the UK, EU, and Japan, a programme called EarthCARE (Earth Clouds, Aerosols and Radiation Explorer) is underway. The project will see a new satellite, namely EarthCARE, launched in to orbit to gather a better understanding of the relationship between clouds, radiation and aerosol, all of which play roles in the regulation of our climate. 

EarthCARE is the sixth satellite in ESA’s Living Planet Programme, and it will be leveraging cutting-edge technologies to educate us on how humans are impacting the natural process. This project dates back to 2008, when ESA first signed a contract to create the satellite. The UK will be responsible for manufacturing a large amount of the onboard hardware and tech, which includes cameras, control mechanisms and vital communication technologies.

Spaceports: At the very top of these ambitions is the UK’s development of 3 vertical launching spaceports, and 3 horizontal launch spaceports. Together, these huge projects will see the UK become a spacefaring nation, as well as becoming historical landmarks that will see the nation launch its first ever vertical rocket into space.

One horizontally launching space station will be based on the coast of England in Newquay, Cornwall; heading up the effort is billionaire Richard Branson, who for some years has worked to launch his Virgin Orbit dreams into space, and only a few weeks ago, that dream was realised

Whilst this launch was indeed from U.S. soil, it is anticipated that Virgin Orbit will be launching in 2022 from the UK. 

Following that two of the vertical launch sites, Shetland Space Centre and Sutherland Space Port, both of which are based in Scotland. At present there are some issues regarding the environmental impacts of both launch sites as they are being built on contentious grounds. 

However, these two spaceports have significant backing from the likes of U.S. aerospace giant, Lockheed Martin, as well as Europe/Scotland-based firms Orbex and Skyrora, respectively. 

Stars in Their Eyes

The above examples only account for a few of the numerous projects and programmes taking place in the UK, and the appointment of Dr Bate comes at an incredibly important time for the nation’s ambitions. 

Next year, commercial spaceflights will be made available to the public, a move confirmed by the UK’s Department for Transport on July 29th, 2021. With numerous collaborations and projects on the go, Dr Bate certainly has his work cut out for him, but it seems as though he has stepped into the shade of a tree planted before his time, under which he can certainly capitalise to bring the UK into orbit.

Rockets or Satellites: The Future of UK Space Industry

24th Aug 2020

As preparations for the first-ever launch of a vertical rocket from the United Kingdom begin to ramp up, so do efforts to further foster the British space industry, begging the question, where matters go from here?

Opportunity Arrives

In the coming years, the UK is ambitiously setting the stage for a radical shift from being a gigantic manufacturer of small satellites and space technologies, to launching its very own into orbit from home soil. This is a lucrative industry that demonstrably rewards prowess and is a field in which Britain has glowingly succeeded; whether on the front of scientific aptitude or engineering capabilities, the UK has played an almost disproportionately positive role in the realm of small satellite manufacturing, and is vying for a slice of the launch market as well.

A recent state of the industry review concluded that 2019 was a gigantic success for the industry worldwide. Reduced launch costs, increased launch activity and new services were just a few of the positive transformations noted a July 2020 report for the Satellite Industry Association (SIA).

Accruing approximately $271 billion in global revenue that year, this industry is presumed to be headed in an upward trajectory, with no telling just how big the commercial space sector is to become. But with the UK bidding to set up domestic vertical launch sites and gigantic levels of investment being poured in, even during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is safe to assume that the UK is aware of its extremely valuable role in this industry, and is seeking to firmly secure that position as well as branch into the launch market.

Consider this, between approximately 2015 and 2018 the UK had been estimated to have manufactured 15%-19% of the 500+ satellites launched in that period. Further, displaying the importance of the UK in this global industry, official reports reveal that between 2016/17, the UK space sector was growing overall, 7.8% per annum since 1999/2000 to be exact, and was estimated at the time to be worth £14.8 billion, generating just over 40,000 jobs and pumping £5.7 billion into the economy. This is a sizeable stake in a hyper-competitive, cutting-edge industry that is becoming more advanced and commercialised with every passing year.

The Who’s Who

Over the years, satellite size has been reduced dramatically since the humble and hulking beginnings of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite sent into space by man, weighing a modest 80 kg.

Presently, satellites can weigh from more than a tonne, or be able to fit in the palm of your hand weighing in at just 100 grams. As a result, the launch of small-sized satellites is inexpensive, requiring far less fuel and materials to send into orbit. In the coming future, numerous companies based in the UK and internationally will be playing vital roles in the future of UK’s launch capabilities.

Skyrora, a launch vehicle firm based in Edinburgh, Scotland, is one of the companies leading the star-gazing charge. With a fleet of varying rocket sizes in development and testing, Skyrora is well-positioned to be one of the first, if not the first UK-based rocket manufacturer to launch from British soil, namely from the prized spaceport being developed in Sutherland, Scotland.

Skylark Micro – one of Skyrora’s testing rockets, recently launched from Iceland.

Having recently completed a successful test-launch of the Skylark Micro rocket from Iceland on Sunday, August 16th 2020, Skyrora has made history for Iceland, being the first rocket launch to take place in fifty years. Launched from the Langanes peninsula in the Northeastern regions of the country, the 10ft tall rocket reached a height of 30 kilometres, with both the first and the second stages of the rocket being recovered easily not too far from the shore.

Lockheed Martin, a US-based aerospace and security firm with a sizeable stake in Scotland’s launch ambitions, is aiding the nation by providing technology and expertise for the development of British spaceports as well as further space projects. Having been awarded £23.5 million in 2018 by the UK Space Agency (UKSA) to lead the home team, Lockheed Martin will be a crucial figure in the establishment of Britain’s vertical launch sites.

Furthermore, the firm is also reportedly looking to launch some of its own satellites and rockets from either Sutherland or Shetland spaceports, namely a Small Launch Orbital Manoeuvring Vehicle (SL-OMV), which has been built in the US for the UK Spaceflight Programme. This innovative vehicle can carry up to 6U CubeSats such as the companies LM 50. Backing this is Orbital Micro Systems, a firm headquartered in the US, as well as two UK locations in London and Edinburgh; this company will be working with Lockheed Martin to create a UK-built advanced pathfinder for the 6U CubeSat, and validate the performance of the SL-OMV as well as the ground system.

design for the Sutherland spaceport
The proposed design for the Sutherland spaceport.

Patrick Wood, Lockheed Martin’s UK Country Executive for Space, said at the time:

This historic ‘pathfinder’ launch for the UK will also demonstrate the tremendous potential small satellites and CubeSats have across a wide range of commercial and government data collection applications,” adding, “We believe, as the UK Space Agency does, that this effort will help bring the UK to the forefront of the rapidly-growing, global small satellite market and support the UK’s maturing space supply chain.

One of the other major players in the commercial space sector is Virgin Galactic, who for some years has been working to launch a horizontal orbital vehicle by the name of Unity.

Having conducted glide flights after moving operations to New Mexico earlier this year, testing efforts are ramping up as Virgin Galactic prepares for commercial space travel which could be launching from a £10.7 million horizontal launch facility being built in Newquay, Cornwall. Though a Virgin Galactic spaceflight may from the spaceport is speculative, another arm of the company, Virgin Orbit, will be launching a modified Boeing 747 to deliver small satellites over the coming years.

Virgin Orbit’s Launcher One
Virgin Orbit’s Launcher One being released by the Boeing 747.

Orbex, another firm joining the competition, was awarded £2.5 million to cooperate with Lockheed Martin in developing the Sutherland spaceport. With offices in the UK and Europe, Orbex has also signed six launch contracts for its vertical launch vehicle, Orbex Prime. Just as with Skyrora, Orbex is developing environmentally sustainable vehicles with an ultra-low carbon footprint which are also fully recoverable and re-usable.

The Orbex Prime rocket
The Orbex Prime rocket prototype.

Future Views

Aside from the Covid-19 pandemic squeezing the brakes on the entire world, the UK is also trying to maintain equilibrium throughout the Brexit transition.

These are indeed tough times for the nation, however, the British space race is somewhat of a silver lining, and is likely to play a vital role in the economic recovery of the nation. The creation and establishment of the Sutherland spaceport could be the success story needed to boost the economy. The aim, as stated by the UKSA and the Space Innovation Growth Strategy ten years ago, is to capture £40 billion of global commercial space revenues by 2030, and even in our current predicament, this is all quite possible. A Size and Health of the UK Space Sector report published in January 2020, indicates that much, as space infrastructures have provided broad economic benefits to the tune some £300 billion, or 15% of the UK GDP.

The smallsat market is blossoming, and thankfully so, considering that Glasgow is the largest satellite developer in Europe. Reportedly, 2019 was one of the biggest years in the small satellite sector with 385 smallsats launched, generating roughly $2.8 billion of market value with smallsat manufacturing being the largest driver behind that fiscal boom.

Scotland has a rather robust space ecosystem, with over 130 private companies and numerous research institutes and observatories, making it the perfect location for Orbex and Skyrora to make history. Furthermore, with Glasgow being as prominent as it is in satellite manufacturing, Scotland and the UK economy at large can only benefit from investing in space.

With radical changes to the global market, disrupted supply chains and an imminent period of economic downturn, Britain should turn its focus to space and if anything, perhaps ramp up efforts given the forecasted returns. With a sterling domestic ecosystem of manufacturers, experts and ambitious innovative rocket firms, the UK are in a considerably good position to maximise space-related efforts and reap the benefits for years to come.

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