The space sector is one of the most exciting growth areas for UK industry. With unique commercial challenges due to its complex nature and rapidly changing regulatory requirements, it’s an exciting new area of law that solicitors may consider embarking into. Our Solicitors’ PII expert, Sam Pye shares her thoughts.

Science Minister George Freeman said:

“The first ever satellite launch from UK soil, here at Spaceport Cornwall, will be a giant leap for our fast-growing commercial satellite and space sector. This is one of our most innovative industries, generating new opportunities in Cornwall and beyond, with high-growth companies such as Space Forge, Surrey Satellites, Astroscale, Inmarsat, Open Cosmos, and the thriving Scottish space cluster.

By establishing the UK as the leading European base to launch small satellites, we can build on our existing strengths in areas such as space manufacturing, in-flight manufacturing, satellite and debris retrieval, and launch licensing insurance and finance, to create jobs across the country, grow the economy and attract international investment.”

The legal implications for these developments and opportunities are huge and there will certainly be demand for specialist lawyers to navigate the way forward.   

Space law can be described as the body of law governing space-related activities. Much like general international law, it comprises a variety of international agreements, treaties, conventions, and United Nations General Assembly resolutions, as well as rules and regulations of international organisations. 

It addresses a variety of matters, such as the preservation of the space and Earth environment, liability for damages caused by space objects, the settlement of disputes, the rescue of astronauts, the sharing of information about potential dangers in outer space, the use of space-related technologies, and international cooperation.  

A number of fundamental principles guide the conduct of space activities, including the notion of space as the province of all humankind, the freedom of exploration and use of outer space by all states without discrimination, and the principle of non-appropriation of outer space.

Solicitors that offer advice on space law spend a lot of their time determining what international agreements should be and how private property and territorial rights apply to outer space. Specific issues can include:    

  • Military satellite projects
  • Regulatory and licensing issues
  • Satellite financing
  • Space system procurement
  • Contract management
  • First and second-generation satellite services outsourcing
  • Contracts for design, manufacture and operation of space systems
  • Managing service / asset transition
  • Liability and risk for space activities
  • Regulated procurements
  • Sole source procurement
  • Project and risk management

A key element of the UK’s strategy for space is enabling the launch of spacecraft from the UK, with this milestone now having been reached. However, apportioning space in space is already an area of international friction and is likely to lead to disagreements down the line.  

Many countries believe that they have the right to control the space above their countries. As more countries try to follow the UK’s lead to launch these satellites, conflicts will arise. Space solicitors must figure out how to resolve these conflicts and deal with the ethical questions that govern who should have top priority.   

Ian Annett, Deputy CEO at the UK Space Agency, said:

Establishing orbital launch capabilities in the UK is already bringing new growth through investment and jobs into Cornwall and other communities across the UK, inspiring a new generation of space professionals whether in science, engineering, law and other disciplines.1

Therefore, for those that practice law but have a keen interest and understanding of science, space law could be the perfect fit. You would certainly need talented negotiation skills, contract drafting expertise and an interest in politics, but with many areas of law requiring these skills, this could be a natural next step. 

Practicing space law gives you the chance to be a part of the future. As government priorities and technologies change, the laws and agreements that govern activity in space must also change. Space Solicitors have the opportunity to be at the forefront in making international agreements and policies in this emerging field.

Whether you’re planning on becoming the leading solicitor on all things space, delving into medical negligence, dipping your toe in property or expanding into any new area of law, this is a material change to your firm that needs to be notified to your insurer. 

Our team of Solicitors’ PII specialists are happy to advise on any impact to your risk profile, if and how it will affect your premium and how that particular area of law is viewed by insurers.