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Satellite and Space Projects News March 2021

John Worthy
26/03/2021

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United Kingdom

Review of the latest updates from the Satellite and Space sector.

Where next for the UK space sector?: In our next Fieldfisher webinar on 21 April, Graham Turnock, CEO of the UK Space Agency, will be discussing the highlights of his leadership of the Agency and future opportunities for the UK space sector. Hosted by Fieldfisher head of Satellite and Space Projects, John Worthy, the discussion will include Graham's insights on where the UK can develop its reach in space over the coming years. For registration details, please follow this link: https://www.fieldfisher.com/en/events/driving-space-business-in-a-changing-world-shaping

Brexit, the TCA and the space sector: On 3 March Fieldfisher partner John Worthy presented an analysis of the implications of the UK EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) to a group of leading space businesses under the umbrella of the joint UKSpace/TechUK Satellite Telecommunications Committee. The TCA sets out the key rules governing the trading relationship between the UK and the EU after Brexit. By establishing a bespoke free trade deal, this new UK-EU regime impacts on supply chains, trade in services, telecoms, cross border contracts, intellectual property, data protection and immigration/visas – all of these affect the space sector. For copies of the presentation slides or further insight into the way the TCA affects the space sector, please email John Worthy.

Space highlighted in UK Integrated Review: Space features strongly in the UK government's Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, published this month. The UK aims to deliver an integrated space policy, and in particular, to "Support the UK space sector to realise the economic benefits from this new and dynamic market, and extend the UK’s influence in the space domain. As part of building the UK’s strategic advantage through S&T [science and technology], the Government will build the enabling environment for a thriving UK space industry developing space- and ground-based technologies. We will promote a ‘whole-of-life’ offer from R&D through finance to satellite operations, launch capability data applications and end-of-life services." These plans build on the UK space sector's rapid growth over recent years, trebling in size since 2010.

UK focuses on space security: By 2030, the UK Government aims to have the capability to monitor, protect and defend its interests in space using a mixture of national capabilities and partner alliances. On top of a £5bn investment in the UK's the next-generation military satellite communications system Skynet 6, the government plans to establish a new Space Command spanning both military and commercial space interests, and a National Space Operations Centre to track and take action against "nefarious" activity. The government also aims to develop a UK Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance satellite constellation and a supporting digital backbone in space. The plans are outlined in the Ministry of Defence's document "Defence in a competitive age", and contribute to the government's Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy (see above).

Spire Global goes public in SPAC deal: Space-based data-analytics and "Space-as-a-Service" business Spire Global, Inc. is to merge with NavSight Holdings, Inc. a special purposes acquisition company (SPAC). The combined company will have a value of US$1.6 billion and will be listed on the NYSE. The merger, announced on 1 March 2021, is expected to complete in summer 2021 subject to shareholder and regulatory approvals.

UK commercial space launch regulation: The UK government has published its response to feedback from two public consultations on the regulatory framework for commercial space launches. The government now expects to finalise legislation by the end of 2021 and hopes that the first space launches from the UK will take place in the early 2020s.

Spaceport 1 plans advancing: QinetiQ, part of the consortium developing the Spaceport 1 vertical launch site in North Uist, has applied to the Civil Aviation Authority for a change to the "notified airspace design" in the surrounding area. According to a report in the Stornoway Gazette on 9 March 2021, a number of potential operators wish to launch sounding rockets from Spaceport 1 in 2021, and this could require an interim reserved area to protect the airspace around Spaceport 1, while the application to the CAA is in process. 

In-orbit telemetry deal for Inmarsat: Inmarsat has been awarded a National Space Innovation Programme (NSIP) contract by the UK Space Agency to develop an in-orbit telemetry relay service for launchers. In a press release, Inmarsat said that the service, called "InRange", will allow launch providers to reduce their dependency on ground-based monitoring systems, and offers a more flexible cost-effective option. Aerospace technology solutions provider Safran Data Systems and antenna designer and manufacturer Haigh-Farr, Inc. are also partners on the project.

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