As of 4 July 2011, the licensing insurance requirements under the UK Outer Space Act 1986 (OSA) have been reduced to €60 million from £100 million.
The changes, which are intended to encourage a level playing field with other space-faring nations, were announced by the Minister of State for Universities and Science, the Rt Hon David Willetts MP, at a UK Space Conference on 4 July.
In relation to each new licence application submitted after 4 July, the UK Space Agency will perform a risk assessment to assess the potential risks posed by the mission and determine a corresponding level of insurance cover.
In most cases, which involve missions using established launchers, satellite platforms and operational profiles, this insurance cover will be limited to €60 million against thirdparty claims for the launch and in-orbit operational life of the satellite, instead of £100 million.
These reforms are expected to save the industry approximately £7 million in insurance premiums over the next 11 years.
The UK Government is also intending to reduce the insurance requirement for small satellites and cubesats to zero.
Existing Licence Holders
The UK Space Agency would recommend that existing licence holders contact it to seek permission before reducing the level of their insurance cover, although it expects to approve the reduced level of cover in the majority of cases.
The unlimited liability faced by operators under section 10 of the OSA remains for the moment. As discussed in our bulletin of March 2011, the UK Government is currently considering a cap of €60 million on the liability of operators.
This amendment is likely to be made by way of a legislative reform order, after a three-month public consultation. It is envisaged that this upper limit on liability will be implemented in around April 2012.