UK space policy and space tourism

Earlier this week the Select Committee on Science and Technology of the British Parliament issued a report on UK space policy. What’s noteworthy about this report is that it includes a section about space tourism. This section outlines the recent developments in vehicles and companies to serve primarily the suborbital market, including Virgin Galactic, of course. The report also deals with the potential environmental impact of space tourism (previously discussed here), offering the views of both those who think emissions from suborbital spacecraft is a major concern and those who think it isn’t an issue. (The former UK science minister, Malcolm Wicks, takes a compromise stance, saying, “the environmental impact in terms of carbon emissions might be something that should be looked at most carefully in judging whether this is a societal priority.”)

The report doesn’t conclude that the British government should be spending money to help develop space tourism vehicles specifically, or on the industry in general. However, the report does suggest that the UK should do more to create a supportive regulatory environment, citing in particular current law in the US, which is “leading the world in this area”. (The report goes a little too far when it claims that the 2004 Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act (CSLAA) “created an Office of Commercial Space Transportation under the auspices of the US Federal Aviation Administration that is responsible for regulating the industry.” That office had existed, either as part of the FAA or as a standalone entity, for about two decades before the CSLAA was enacted; the bill simply gave the existing office the authority to regulate commercial passenger spaceflight.) The report recommends that the British National Space Centre “use its consultation on regulation to discuss the establishment of a regulatory framework and responsible body with the relevant authorities.”

How influential and effective this report will be isn’t clear, particularly for an observer like myself on the other side of the Atlantic. The report does suggest that former science minister Wicks wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about space tourism: he’s quoted in the report as saying, “of all the things I am excited about space tourism is not at the top of my list.” It’s not clear what level of interest the new science minister, Ian Pearson, has in space tourism, or space in general, as he’s been on the job since only early this month.

2 comments to UK space policy and space tourism

  • UK space policy and space tourism…

    The British Parliament’s new report on UK space policy includes a section on space tourism. Jeff Foust discusses what it says and what it might mean….

  • Ruby Mannan


    I have recently graduated from University College London with an MSci in Earth and Space Science and I am now in the midst if applying for various graduate positions.

    I have always had a keen interest in Science and would especially like to develop a career within the Space Industry. I carried out a two-week work experience placement at the British National Space Centre in March 2000 as a year 10 student. It was this time with BNSC which motivated me to pursuer my current degree discipline.

    I have contacted BNSC on several occasions with regard to possible graduate positions however I have learnt that BNSC do not in fact employ graduates directly and that recruitment is carried out through the Civil Service. My particular interest lies in working alongside the government in the development and implementation of Space Policy. I have therefore applied to the graduate Fast Stream programme in the hope that I may be placed in a similar role. However I am aware that the fast stream placements work on a rotational basis and there is no guarantee of being placed in the placement of your choice. I have as a result been looking into different ways of getting into such a role within the government but I am finding it increasing difficult to gather any information on possible recruiters.

    Please could you assist me with this, and provide any information you may have regarding graduate roles in the government working closely with science in policy with possibly an emphasis on Space Policy or similar roles which also provide good training and financial benefits.

    I would greatly appreciate any advice or information which you may have and look forward to hearing from you.

    Kind Regards,

    Ruby Mannan

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