UK government announces new sustainability measures – SpaceNews

WASHINGTON — The UK government on June 23 announced a range of measures, from regulation to funding active waste disposal projects, aimed at making the country a leader in space sustainability.

George Freeman, Secretary of Science, Research and Innovation, has announced a package called the Plan for Space Sustainability, which aims to create a standard that will encourage companies, along with investors and insurers, to adopt best practices for sustainable space operations. applying.

The goal of the effort is to “create a global commercial framework for the insurability, licensing and regulation of commercial satellites so we can cut costs for those who meet the best sustainability standards,” he said in a speech at the Fourth Summit for Space Sustainability by the Secure World Foundation and the UK Space Agency. “We need to mainstream sustainability in our commercial sector.”

The plan has four main elements, although Freeman gave little detail about them in his comments. One is a review of the UK regulatory framework for all orbital activities. “Our ambition is to lead the way in global regulatory standards for orbital operations. We want it to be industry-led and government-supported,” he said. A second element is the international work on space sustainability in organizations such as the United Nations and the G-7 countries.

The third part of the plan is to develop “simple, accurate metrics” for measuring the sustainability of space activities. Freeman was vague about what would be included in those stats, which he said would be developed in the coming months, but said they could serve as a “kite brand,” or standard of safety and quality, that would serve both companies and environmental, social and governance (ESG) investors.

“For me, success will be when people start saying you have to get your orbital license in the UK because if you stick to it, the insurance costs go down and the licensing costs go down,” he said. “We need to lead the way and show what ESG-compliant space technology, space launch and orbit programs look like. If we can do that, in a simple way to start, I think we can unlock some of that ESG funding.”

The fourth element is a modest amount of additional funding for an active waste disposal program. The government said in a statement it would provide £5m ($6.1m) for the next phase of that programme, making it “quick” to select two teams later this summer. The government awarded three contracts with a combined value of around £1million last year to consortia led by Astroscale, ClearSpace and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. for first feasibility studies.

The government also confirmed £5 million for the National Space Surveillance and Tracking Programme. The program will launch a collision assessment service for UK licensed satellite operators.

Freeman’s speech came a day after recorded comments at Charles, Prince of Wales’s conference on the sustainability of space. “We need to develop a sustainable way, a sustainable way to take advantage of space, just like we need to do here on Earth,” he said.

He called for an “Astro Carta” for space sustainability, one that he said could build on the US-led Artemis Accords “to bring about both peaceful but, crucially, sustainable space exploration.” He did not elaborate on what that agreement would contain or how it would be developed.

Freeman endorsed the Astro Carta concept and drew parallels with the English Magna Carta. “What Prince Charles is putting forth very forcefully is that we need an equally noble set of principles to guide us,” he said. “I think the Astro Carta piece is about establishing some principles, that we need to go into space in this next phase where sustainability is absolutely at the core of everything we do.”

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