Space Tourism: Tories accuse UK Govt of dropping the ball [UPDATE]
Rocketeer — Sun, 12/07/2009 - 5:00pm
Looks like the Conservatives have taken an interest in UK NewSpace. The Shadow Science Minister, Adam Afriyie has slammed the Government's lack of a coordinated policy of support for space tourism:-
"The Government was advised to draw up a legal framework that might have kept space tourism companies like Virgin Galactic in the UK. Instead, the Government's neglect of the space industry is undermining the prospects for a high-tech recovery. It's a sorry state of affairs when British companies are forced to relocate to America because the Government has spent years dithering on the issue. The space industry is one of Britain's most vibrant and strategic high-tech sectors, but it's now clear that government space policy has not been handled in a strategic way."
The Times report also links to parliamentary answers related to the Moreton Hall report on spaceflight licensing, commissioned by the government in 2005 but never published. Recommendations made by the report include:
A system for licensing should be retained.
BNSC should act to establish precise responsibility for sub-orbital manned flight with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and, if necessary, introduce changes to the licensing process and procedures to suit.
The different classes of satellites and missions should be recognised and addressed in different licence application procedures and fees as detailed in this report.
Overseas Territories/Crown Dependencies should be permitted to issue their own licences provided that clauses are inserted to ensure that ascent phase third party liability insurance provides cover to UK Government and that the territory indemnifies the UK Government.
Protocols should be established for each of the territories, with respect to division of responsibility BNSC/Territories for licence application support and licence issue, and guidance notes should be produced for staff.
In-orbit third party liability insurance should be no longer routinely required. However, BNSC may wish to consider insisting upon TPL insurance if the space object is designed/planned to re-enter. The omission of in-orbit TPL should be kept under review because of the presence of man-made orbit debris that could, in future, be identified.
Rocketeer comments: Sounds promising. If Afriyie gets it as well as Drayson does, it can only be a good thing for UK NewSpace development.
Rob Coppinger mentions that Richard Branson met with David Cameron on 8th June, so Tory support for Virgin Galactic is not necessarily surprising. He also points to two more recent BNSC studies into spaceflight licensing in 2006 and 2008 (Review, lather, rinse, repeat...).
I'm not entirely surprised at Whitehorn bashing the BNSC despite them saying they're "completely supportive" of LauncherOne. There's a difference between saying you're supportive, and actually getting off your fat arse and doing something to help...