Satellite and Space Projects newsletter December 2023 | Fieldfisher
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Satellite and Space Projects newsletter December 2023

John Worthy


United Kingdom

UK proposal for revised spaceflight indemnity rules:  A proposed new law in the UK will require space operator licences authorising the carrying out of spaceflight activities to specify the licensee’s indemnity limit. Under the current spaceflight laws, no limit on the licensee's legal indemnity is required (although the regulators would typically expect to include a limit in practice). 

This has led industry to raise concerns about possible additional liability risks and disincentives to choose the UK for space operations. Thus, the new law would resolve industry's concerns on this issue.

ESA promotes Zero Debris Charter: in its latest move to combat space debris, ESA has facilitated the creation of a Zero Debris Charter setting out guiding principles and specific targets to achieve zero space debris by 2030. Working with industry and other stakeholders, ESA hosted a series of workshops to identify the core principles, resulting from discussions among space players from Europe and beyond. While the Charter is not legally binding, it establishes a series of key principles to encourage space safety and sustainability.

European governments and industry target georeturn changes: Following the Space Tech Expo Europe (STEE) conference in Bremen, Germany in November, European government and industry officials agreed that existing georeturn policies of the European Space Agency (ESA) require updating to encourage competition. These policies are in place to ensure that member states are incentivised to make contributions to ESA by guaranteeing a return on investment in the form of contracts. The consensus at STEE was that the existing georeturn policies make it difficult for European vehicles (such as Ariane 6) to be cost-competitive on a global market, because they become locked to certain European suppliers, irrespective of how expensive or effective they are.  

New GSOA code of conduct on space sustainability: On 13th November, the Global Satellite Operators Association released its Code of Conduct on Space Sustainability. The aim of the Code is to encourage the industry to work together on implementing key sustainability practices and safeguarding space resources. The Code calls on operators to implement practices which minimize threats of non-trackable debris, protect humans in space, mitigate the risk of in-orbit collision and limit effects on optical astronomy.

UK Space Agency invests £47 million in UK space hubs: The Space Clusters Infrastructure Fund is awarding over £47 million to be shared among 12 industry programmes, alongside matched funding from the sector. This £98 million total will focus on new private/public investment in space research and development infrastructure. The UK space sector is currently valued at £17.5 billion and this investment will continue the sector's growth alongside creating new jobs and building dynamic space businesses throughout the UK.

SpaceX plans new share issue: Following the funding call in July which raised $750 million, reports suggest that SpaceX now plans to sell new shares to investors in December. SpaceX was valued at $137 billion by Bloomberg following the July investment. The rocket company is expected to shortly issue a tender offer which has cast doubt on reports that Elon Musk was contemplating an IPO in 2024. Musk has also denied on his platform, X, a Bloomberg report which stated SpaceX is considering an IPO.

Avanti aims for multi orbit strategy: Avanti Communications is switching its strategy from being a Geostationary Orbit (GEO) satellite operator to becoming a global multi-orbit provider of fully integrated connectivity services. The company acknowledges the need for strategic partnerships between telecommunications and the space industry and this new strategy seeks to respond to Avanti's customers' diverse needs.

HyImpulse launches to be hosted from SaxaVord Spaceport: SaxaVord and HyImpulse signed a letter of intent to host orbital launches of HyImpulse Technologies rocket from late 2025. SaxaVord has a spaceport in Scotland's Shetland Islands from where HyImpulse will conduct two suborbital launches in August 2024, before the first orbital launches in late 2025. This agreement follows three years of testing in both Shetland and Germany.

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