News story

David Willetts secures agreement for cheaper access to space

The government has today reduced the minimum insurance demanded for licensing routine satellites from €110m to €60m. This will save industry…

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


The government has today reduced the minimum insurance demanded for licensing routine satellites from €110m to €60m. This will save industry £ 7 million over 11 years in insurance premiums.

The next step will be to amend the Outer Space Act, which currently transfers the unlimited liability from the UN Treaty on to Industry. This requires secondary legislation which the Government aims to have in force by April 2012. The plan will bring this in line with other countries.

Speaking at the inaugural UK Space Conference today at Warwick University, Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said:

“The UK’s space sector is a crucial driver of growth, and is worth around £7.5 billion annually. That’s why it’s crucial that we’ve taken the first steps in reforming the Outer Space Act. We have real strengths in satellites and telecommunications, and this will help put UK operators on a level playing field with their international competitors.

“I want to do everything I can to further boost the UK’s space sector, and continue working with industry to reduce regulatory burdens.”

“We have a highly innovative model in the UK, with lots of collaboration between Government, industry and academia. We now need to build on this success, helping businesses make the most of our excellent science base and expertise in space technology to develop groundbreaking products and services that benefit both society and the economy.”

Reform of the Outer Space Act was an important measure announced as part of the Plan for Growth, published alongside the Budget. The space sector is a significant part of the Government’s plan for growth, helping to break down barriers and boost opportunities for the private sector, creating the right conditions for business to start up, invest, grow and create jobs.

Speaking at the first UK Space Agency Conference David Willetts also announced that the Space group at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory has been selected to design, build and test the world’s first ever high-definition streaming space video camera.

The camera will be installed on the International Space Station and will give users everywhere the opportunity to see places and people around the world with a resolution comparable to that of Google Earth’s.

David Willetts went on to announce that the UK Space Agency will soon award several grants to industry and academia to take technology developed for the Exomars robotic space exploration programme into other commercial applications.

Valued at just under half a million pounds, these cover a wide range of applications, including clean methods for extracting oil from oil sands; automated driving aids for large off-road vehicles; and using 3-D cameras in hazardous industrial environments.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Plan for Growth, published alongside the Budget in March, examined the space sector and set out number of measures to break down barriers and promote opportunities to help stimulate growth. More detail can be found at

  2. The Plan for Growth formed the first part of the ongoing Growth Review, which is a fundamental assessment of what every part of Government is doing to provide the conditions for private sector growth. It is a rolling programme will last the whole of this Parliament. More detail can be found at:

  3. **Outer Space Act **

Operation of the UK’s satellites and space vehicles are governed by the Outer Space Act 1986 (OSA). Under this Act, the UK requires unlimited indemnity from UK operators against third-party liability claims. The licensing regime also places a further requirement on operators to insure for £100 million against third-party claims for the launch and in-orbit operational life of the space vehicle. UK operators argue that this puts the UK at a competitive disadvantage. In other countries the compulsory insurance requirement is required only for the launch phase and unlimited indemnity against third party liability claims is not required. Aligning the UK with the requirements of other nations should make UK operators more internationally competitive by reducing their insurance premiums and also provide the opportunity for small companies and academia to launch ‘micro’ satellites on a commercial basis.

In the Plan for Growth released with the budget the Government made the following commitment: To create a level playing field with other countries, the Government will reform the Outer Space Act 1986 by introducing an upper limit on liability for UK operators.**

  1. BIS’s online newsroom contains the latest press notices, speeches, as well as video and images for download. It also features an up to date list of BIS press office contacts. See []( for more information.

Notes to Editors

Contact Information

Name BIS Press Office Job Title

Division COI Phone




Name Emma Griffiths Job Title

Division Department for Business, Innovation and Skills Phone 020 7215 5982 Fax



Published 4 July 2011