NSP Task – Space Regulatory Framework

May 9th, 2022
satellite launch
Posted in NSP News

By Dr Mark Presley

The National Space Partnership was approached by the Department for Transport (DfT) and the co-chair of the Spaceflight Safety and Regulatory Council (SSRC) to canvas views of the Council members on the UK Space Regulatory Framework. Rather than discuss the output of the task, the aim is to describe the approach the NSP took to illustrate the value the NSP was able to add to this task and potentially others too.

The SSRC was facing many varied voices regarding the Regulatory Framework. This was compounded by seven concurrent reviews that were underway. The result was a cacophony of views from which it was proving difficult to discern any common chords. The task given to the NSP was to seek to understand no more than three areas of consensus and three areas of contention with the Framework that required change. It was perceived that the NSP was able to undertake the task discreetly, at pace and act as an independent, trusted facilitator able to synthesize the opinions expressed.

Although aware of the task, we were not actually commissioned to undertake it until 11th March. Two weeks later, on 25th March, the report was delivered to the SSRC. During this time, the NSP was able to contact and fix interviews with 65% of the Council members, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and DfT. The interviews were short, 15-minute, focused exchanges in which we asked what the Council member was content within the Regulatory Framework and what one thing would they want to change. These interviews enabled access in busy diaries and also concentrated the discussion not only on the issue but on the ONE issue that was of concern. The interviews were synthesised into a short four-page report delivered to the SSRC on 25th March and presented at a Council meeting on 31st March.

The report and presentation to the Council identified a clear point of consensus on which to build – namely the endorsement of the CAA as the correct agency responsible for UK space licencing and that they were engaging well. Naturally, there were also areas of contention. However, most of these were NOT related to the regulatory framework, but to the process of licence application and the delta in expectation of what was required of the process. This provided tangible traction for the SSRC to focus discussion on. It also provided confidence in the veracity of the Framework which was assumed to be at the core of the disquieting noises the SSRC was working hard to distil. The NSP, while not experts in space regulation, was able to penetrate the conversation and illuminate key issues. During the extensive Q&A at the Council meeting, we were also able to add our observations on the large size and diverse composition of the Council – including members with only a marginal or even no stake in the regulatory process.

This was a challenging task that the NSP was willing to accept. The independence, discretion and tackling of task with an evidence-based approach that engaged those involved proved to be successful – an opinion reflected by many Council members. As the NSP transitions from its pilot phase to full operations, it will look to offer a similar role across the space sectors. Do contact us if you wish to know more.