Constellations, Launch, New Space and more…

U.S., UK Sign Declaration to Work Together on Space Activities

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
May 14, 2022
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UK lays the foundation for rockets, high-altitude balloons and spaceplanes to lift off from spaceports across the UK, creating thousands of jobs in the process.

  • lift-off moment for UK-US spaceflight as Transport Secretary makes landmark declaration in Washington
  • partnership to cut red tape, making commercial launches from both countries easier and more streamlined 
  • comes as UK prepares for first satellite launch from home soil this year, creating thousands of high-skilled jobs 

WASHINGTON (UK Government PR) — Future spaceflight will be made easier and cheaper, following a landmark partnership with the United States to help cut red tape and boost opportunities in the UK, signed by the Transport Secretary this week in Washington.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg signed a declaration on 11 May 2022 to work together on future commercial spaceflight missions, in the iconic Smithsonian Institution.

The partnership will help launch cheaper, quicker and more streamlined spaceflight operations through close collaboration between the 2 countries on licensing of commercial space launches.

The move will cut down red tape and the regulatory burden to operators resulting in greater efficiencies and a reduction in costs, resources and duplication while maintaining stringent safety standards.

The new declaration sends a clear signal to countries across the globe that the UK aims to be a European hub of space activity and lays the foundation for rockets, high-altitude balloons and spaceplanes to lift off from spaceports across the UK very soon.

This comes as the UK prepares to make its first-ever launch from home soil, and Europe, later this year from Spaceport Cornwall.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:

This transformational partnership is one giant leap for both countries as we prepare for an exciting new era of spaceflight to lift off.

With 7 spaceports being developed across the UK, the space industry is already injecting billions into our economy while offering high-skilled jobs.  

As we look beyond the UK’s first planned spaceflight later this year, I look forward to seeing the innovations and opportunities skyrocket thanks to this collaboration.

Offering launch capability will provide UK companies, as well as those from around the world, with direct access to the space environment while generating high-skilled jobs up and down the country and levelling up some of the most remote communities.

This will reduce the UK’s reliance on other launch countries to put British-built and operated satellites into space, which provide benefits to all – from critical defence security and better weather forecasts to enabling our television services and more efficient transport.

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said:

Commercial space travel is growing swiftly and it’s our responsibility to ensure that these innovations advance safely, encouraging them to develop in ways that benefit us all.

We’re proud to launch this partnership with the United Kingdom to bring more of the benefits of commercial space travel to our workers, businesses, and communities.

This move will not only help make processes to host US spaceflight operators here in the UK more straightforward and efficient, but will streamline the steps for UK space organisations wishing to operate in the US.

It will significantly boost opportunities for both UK and US companies to operate from respective spaceports, introducing new customers and revenues to each country.

Dan Hart, CEO of Virgin Orbit, said:

This agreement between the US and the UK will accelerate collaboration across all sectors of spaceflight. As the Virgin Orbit team prepares for a space launch from Cornwall, compatibility between regulations can be a key enabler.

We are grateful to Secretary of State Grant Shapps and US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for their vision and leadership and we are committed to doing our part by conducting the first-ever launch from the UK later this year with a wonderful mix of payloads from our 2 countries.

As the UK space industry continues to thrive, the sector is injecting billions into the UK economy. In 2020, UK space-related organisations produced £16.5 billion in income, supporting around 47,000 jobs. 

We expect to see this grow even further as the government implements the National space strategy and the first satellites launch from UK soil later this year.

Joanne Wheeler MBE, UKspace Co-Chair of the Launch Industry Group (LIG), said:

UKspace welcomes this landmark agreement between the UK and the US working towards reducing duplication between the 2 countries for licensing of commercial space activities, reducing costs and streamlining procedures while maintaining robust safety standards. 

The partnership reflects the collaboration between both countries on commercial spaceflight missions as the UK prepares for the first launch from UK soil later this year from Spaceport Cornwall. This will also support the UK space and launch industry more generally as it continues to thrive.


WHEREAS the Department of Transportation of the United States of America (“U.S.”) and the Department for Transport of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (“U.K.”) (collectively, “the Participants”) intend to cooperate in the area of commercial space transportation activities;

RECOGNIZING the importance of, and mutual benefit to be gained from, working together to protect public safety and property, as well as national security and foreign policy interests in commercial space launch and re-entry activities;

RECOGNIZING the objectives of this cooperation are to reduce duplication of licensing efforts for commercial space transportation activities, and to streamline the dual licensing processes of the U .S. and the U.K. while retaining, maintaining, and promoting acceptable levels of safety, the efficient use of U.S. and U.K. regulatory resources, and minimizing the impact of regulatory costs on the commercial space transportation industry; and

RECOGNIZING chat the consistency of requirements and processes for commercial space transportation licensing between governments advances global interoperability for the commercial space transportation industry;

NOW, THEREFORE, the Participants confirm their intent to enhance safety, encourage efficiency, and work collaboratively in support ofa future binding agreement for commercial space transportation launch and re-entry activities by cooperating in the following ways:

NOW, THEREFORE, the Participants confirm their intent to enhance safety, encourage efficiency, and work collaboratively in support of a future binding agreement for commercial space transportation launch and re-entry activities by cooperating in the following ways:

1. continuing to meet at regular intervals to conduct discussions and work collaboratively in the following areas:

a. assessment of ground safety at launch and re-entry sites, including the roles and responsibilities of government entities and regulators;

b. assessment of any relevant agreements, arrangements, or licenses (including terms of launch and re-entry site use, Notices to Mariners, Notices to Airmen/ Air Missions, and mishap and accident response);

c. assessment of environmental impacts;

d. inspections, monitoring, and methods of enforcement;

e. commercial space flight safety analysis and risk assessment (safety case and hazard analysis);

f. insurance and liability;

g. mishap and accident investigation;

h. expectations and process details for launch by U.S. companies at designated launch sites in the U.K., and for launch by U.K. companies at designated sites in the U.S.; and

i. other current and future areas of interest that may be jointly decided upon; and

2. establishing enhanced partnerships and communication mechanisms to help streamline approval of commercial space transportation activities and to minimize duplication of licensing efforts.

The Participants expressly acknowledge and accept that this Declaration merely constitutes a declaration of the mutual intent of the Participants without any intent to create any binding commitments or obligations between them.

Pete Buttigieg
Secretary of Transportation

Grant Shapps
Secretary of State for Transport

May 11, 2022
Washington, D.C.