British rocket ambitions risk crashing at launch

“We wanted it to be an opportunity rather than a pain,” said Alan Thompson, its chief government officer.

Rocket companies are still waiting for launch licenses, which must be administered by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Under current plans, CAA will accept responsibilities on a case-by-case basis. Each operator will assume a level of disaster risk in collisions at launch or in orbit, after which the government will intervene.

But with no maximum cap confirmed, rocket makers have complained that they are struggling to convince customers to take a punt in the UK when they could end up paying more than they bargained for.

In addition to this, there is an additional responsibility for each satellite launched.

Currently, this is set at € 60million (£ 51million). But industry figures fear this will apply to every individual satellite, meaning that a launch of a dozen small satellites, each weighing just a few kilograms, could result in companies with hundreds of millions of pounds. of risk.

“They’re the size of a tin can,” says Thompson of Skyrora, “don’t tell me it’s $ 60 million in damage.”

The government should review the liability of 60 million euros for satellite launches.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Transport said: “No launch or satellite operator will incur unlimited liability. The insurance policies have been developed following extensive consultation with stakeholders and we will continue to do so. conversations as we prepare for this bold new future of space travel. ”

CAA and the UK Space Agency have not commented. However, in a recent presentation to the industry, the agency said: “Operators will not be subject to unlimited liability to third parties.”

Despite these assurances, space chiefs want to see more concrete actions from the government, which has the ambition to capture 10% of the global space market by 2030.

There is still a long way to go to achieve this goal. The last rocket built in the UK was the Black Arrow, which last flew from a site in Australia in 1971.

Skyrora is a UK company that hopes to change that. Its 72-foot XL rocket will be able to propel satellites up to 620 miles high, although so far it has only launched its smaller Skylark Nano rocket for suborbital flights.

About Leah Albert

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