Satellite and Space Projects Newsletter January 2024 | Fieldfisher
Skip to main content

Satellite and Space Projects Newsletter January 2024

John Worthy


United Kingdom

Fieldfisher partner debates priorities and next steps for the UK Space Sector: Head of Satellite and Space Projects John Worthy joined the panel debate on international collaboration between industry, academia and government at the Westminster Business Forum conference, 14 December 2023.

Along with Andrew Stanniland, CEO of Thales Alenia Space UK, Katherine Courtney, Chair of the Global Network on Sustainability in Space and Stuart Naylor, Director of International Engagement at the Satellite Applications Catapult, John commented on the strengths of cross border collaboration in the sector and the scope for delivering increased benefits, building on the National Space Strategy. Among the key levers for accelerating collaboration are a deeper understanding of each community's objectives and applying smarter commercial, legal and regulatory models to support a win- win outcome.

AI and space - Fieldfisher issues AI Guidebook: Industry is turning to AI to support numerous aspects of space business, opening up exciting new opportunities and engaging with the challenges which AI presents. In our support for clients working with AI internationally, we have prepared a guidebook on the key legal and regulatory issues affecting AI across 19 European jurisdictions. The guidebook offers insights on how each jurisdiction is engaging with the oversight of AI and provides pointers on the impact of the major regulatory initiatives across these markets. Copies of the Fieldfisher AI Guidebook are available from John Worthy:

Launches from SaxaVord and Sutherland Spaceports boosted by UK Space Agency funding: The UK Space Agency (UKSA) has awarded Hylmpulse, a launch provider working with Saxavord Spaceport, and Orbex, working with Sutherland Spaceport, over £3 million each in funding to enable spaceflight activities from UK spaceports. This funding, over £6.7 million in total, comes from UKSA's contributions to European Space Agency's Boost! Programme, which supports companies to develop world-leading space transportation services and then to bring them to market. The two companies will use the funding to develop world-leading launch technologies in a sustainable way.

UK Space Agency publishes Lessons Learned report after Spaceport Cornwall launch: The UKSA has published its Lessons Learned report after the UK's first orbital launch from Spaceport Cornwall in January 2023. The report identifies prominent themes emerging from consultations with stakeholders from government and industry. The key themes and recommendations are: to review the regulatory landscape; to improve knowledge dissemination; to review the approach to international agreement (together with European partners); to review the approach to insurance liabilities; to review governance process to ensure clear communication; decision and escalation processes; and to review and clarify roles and responsibilities between participating stakeholders. Work is underway or already complete for some key recommendations and the report concludes that the UK is in a strong position following stakeholder engagement and implementation of a framework to act on recommendations.

Ariane 6 programme on track despite firing test abort: The European Space Agency has reported further problems in their launch sector, this time concerning the new Ariane 6. The hot-firing test of the Ariane 6 was aborted two minutes into the test and manufacturer ArianeGroup is now analysing the failure. These issues are, however, not expected to impact the inaugural launch which is scheduled for mid-2024.

New contract from Thales Alenia Space boosts UK space industry: On 15 December 2023, Thales Alenia Space selected the UK's National Satellite Test Facility at RAL Space, Oxfordshire, for the first comprehensive assembly, integration and test campaign of the European Space Agency’s FLEX (Fluorescence Explorer) satellite. This contract award is a significant boost to the UK space industry. Following receipt of the FLORIS (Fluorescence Imaging Spectrometer) instrument, Thales Alenia Space will head the satellite platform assembly, integration and test campaign which is planned for 2025. The Flex satellite will be used to provide a better understanding of the state of the Earth's health and vegetation productivity, which will support the increasing demands on agricultural production.

Axiom Space, Kepler and Skyloom Global to demonstrate optical intersatellite links: Axiom Space, Kepler and Skyloom Global have partnered to integrate and demonstrate high data rate optical intersatellite links (OISLs) on Axiom Station, the first module of Axiom Space's commercial space station. Alongside this work, the team is working to create an orbital data centre on Axiom Station, which will be the world's first scalable, cloud-technology-enabled and commercial orbital data centre. The OISLs will have up to 10GB/sec throughput which will meet Space Development Agency interoperability standards. The data will be transmitted via the Kepler and Skyloom relay constellations to and from the orbital data centre.

Related Work Areas