Space regulation ‘must keep up with technological innovation’

Space regulation needs to keep pace with evolving technologies or it risks choking innovation, an industry expert has said.

The UK Space Conference has heard that as space becomes industrialised, and more launches occur, there will be a greater need for effective regulation.

However, there are rules about things like who can launch something into space, how and where from.

Nik Smith, UK country director for Lockheed Martin Space, suggested the regulations need to be better at keeping up with the industry.

Speaking at the UK Space Conference in Newport, he said: “Regulations, without doubt, can be a constraint.

“We talk about disruptive innovation – the idea about you taking the existing technology and finding really innovative ways of using it.

“The problem is, it is arguably going faster than the regulations keep up.

“And when that happens, that can become a restriction – a choke on that acceleration. And I think that is a potential concern and a real risk.

“So I think from a launch perspective we are really keen to see regulations that aren’t too burdensome, and still provide the level of safety, but actually make the UK a very attractive place to launch from.”

A number of space ports are being built across the UK, including in Sutherland, on the north coast of Scotland, and Cornwall.

Mr Smith said companies would start looking at which countries have regulations in place that allow them to innovate.

He explained: “I think there is something of a threat there, but equally, at the same time, if that allows that innovation to take place, how can you fight it?

“So I think there is a real risk with regulation if it doesn’t keep up with technology.”

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