Home » Press Releases » Detailed guide: Licence to operate a space object: how to apply
Bookmark and Share
United Kingdom Space Agency

Detailed guide: Licence to operate a space object: how to apply

13 Jul 2017, 16:01 UTC
Detailed guide: Licence to operate a space object: how to apply

Updated: June guidance updated to July guidance.





Advance notification: introduction of a liability cap for UK Outer Space Act 1986 licensees

PDF, 192KB, 2 pages


This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology.
Request an accessible format.


If you use assistive technology (such as a screen reader) and need a
version of this document in a more accessible format, please email enquiries@bis.gsi.gov.uk.
Please tell us what format you need. It will help us if you say what assistive technology you use.



Applying for a licence

UK nationals and companies intending to launch or procure the launch of a space object, operate a space object or carry on any other activity in outer space should make themselves familiar with the provisions of the
Outer Space Act 1986
(PDF, 110KB, 8 pages)

, plus the amendments made to the Act by the Deregulation Act 2015.

Unless acting as an employee or agent of another organisation, you need to apply for a licence at least six months in advance of carrying on the licensable activity. In certain circumstances it may be possible to process an application in a reduced timescale, although no guarantees can be given. Applications should be made using the licence application form below. Information for applicants, including notes to help complete the form, can also be found below.

There is flexibility in the UK approach to licensing and the UK Space Agency encourages potential applicants to contact them as early as possible to discuss the best way forward and solution for their mission.





Outer Space Act 1986 Licence Application Form: January 2017

MS Word Document, 469KB


This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology.
Request an accessible format.


If you use assistive technology (such as a screen reader) and need a
version of this document in a more accessible format, please email enquiries@bis.gsi.gov.uk.
Please tell us what format you need. It will help us if you say what assistive technology you use.







Guidance for applicants: July 2017

PDF, 340KB, 13 pages


This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology.
Request an accessible format.


If you use assistive technology (such as a screen reader) and need a
version of this document in a more accessible format, please email enquiries@bis.gsi.gov.uk.
Please tell us what format you need. It will help us if you say what assistive technology you use.



The Outer Space Act 1986

The Outer Space Act is the legal basis for the regulation of activities in outer space carried out by organisations or individuals established in the United Kingdom or one of its overseas territories or crown dependencies. It confers licensing and other powers on the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills acting through the UK Space Agency.

The Act seeks to ensure compliance with the UK’s obligations under international treaties and principles covering the use of outer space, including liability for damage caused by space objects, the registration of objects launched into outer space and the principles for the remote sensing of the Earth.





Outer Space Act 1986

PDF, 110KB, 8 pages


This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology.
Request an accessible format.


If you use assistive technology (such as a screen reader) and need a
version of this document in a more accessible format, please email enquiries@bis.gsi.gov.uk.
Please tell us what format you need. It will help us if you say what assistive technology you use.



Amendments made to the Outer Space Act 1986 by the Deregulation Act 2015.

Obligations of licensees

Once a licence has been granted, licensees are obliged to:

permit reasonable access to documents and inspection and testing of equipment and facilities by UK Space Agency or their advisors as appropriate
inform UK Space Agency of any change in the licensed activity (eg change of orbit, change of owner) and seek approval prior to the change being made
prevent contamination of outer space and adverse changes in the environment of the Earth
avoid interference in the space activities of others
avoid any breach of the UK’s international obligations
preserve the national security of the UK
insure themselves against third party liabilities (usually 60 million euro) arising from the licensed activity - the UK government should be named as an additional insured and insurance should be for the launch and in-orbit phases of the mission

for each licence application, a risk assessment will be performed to consider the potential risks posed by the mission and a commensurate level of insurance cover will be determined
in the majority of cases, involving single satellite missions employing established launchers, satellite platforms and operational profiles, this insurance cover would be limited to 60 million euro


dispose of the licensed space object appropriately at the end of the licensed activity and inform UK Space Agency of the disposal and termination of the activity





Example of an Outer Space Act License (where a liability cap applies)

PDF, 162KB, 7 pages


This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology.
Request an accessible format.


If you use assistive technology (such as a screen reader) and need a
version of this document in a more accessible format, please email enquiries@bis.gsi.gov.uk.
Please tell us what format you need. It will help us if you say what assistive technology you use.



Background to the legislation

The UK is one of the pioneering nations in space activity. Today it has a leading reputation in a number of key space sectors both in the scientific and commercial arenas. The Outer Space Act was introduced in 1986 to manage the UK’s obligations under various UN space treaties and principles. In essence, these international agreements make the UK government responsible for ensuring that space activities carried out by UK individuals or organisations:

do not jeopardise public health or the safety of persons or property
are consistent with the international obligations of the UK

The agreements also mean that the UK government must:

maintain and make available a register of space objects launched by UK organisations or individuals
accept liability for 3rd party damage
seek to ensure that the activity will not impair national security

The Act stems from these obligations.

Specifically, the Act set out to:

provide regulation / licensing of UK space activities (via Secretary of State)
facilitate compliance with International Treaties
relieve UK government and taxpayers of some liabilities arising from the activities of private organisations or individuals
primarily cover Space (in-orbit) Operations

BIS, through the UK Space Agency administers the Outer Space Act licensing activities. Since 1986, the Act has been amended a number of times through Orders in Council to extend its powers to crown dependencies and overseas territories or to amend the fees.





Outer Space Act Database of Standards

PDF, 157KB, 23 pages


This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology.
Request an accessible format.


If you use assistive technology (such as a screen reader) and need a
version of this document in a more accessible format, please email enquiries@bis.gsi.gov.uk.
Please tell us what format you need. It will help us if you say what assistive technology you use.







Consultation: Reform of the Outer Space Act 1986

PDF, 91.1KB, 12 pages


This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology.
Request an accessible format.


If you use assistive technology (such as a screen reader) and need a
version of this document in a more accessible format, please email enquiries@bis.gsi.gov.uk.
Please tell us what format you need. It will help us if you say what assistive technology you use.







Government Response to the Outer Space Act consultation

PDF, 182KB, 13 pages


This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology.
Request an accessible format.


If you use assistive technology (such as a screen reader) and need a
version of this document in a more accessible format, please email enquiries@bis.gsi.gov.uk.
Please tell us what format you need. It will help us if you say what assistive technology you use.







Impact Assessment: Review of the Outer Space Act (1986)

PDF, 677KB, 46 pages


This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology.
Request an accessible format.


If you use assistive technology (such as a screen reader) and need a
version of this document in a more accessible format, please email enquiries@bis.gsi.gov.uk.
Please tell us what format you need. It will help us if you say what assistive technology you use.



Cubesat regulation

The UK Space Agency has conducted a review to evaluate how its regulatory approach might be tailored for CubeSat systems. Recognising the common aspects of such missions, there is an opportunity for the UK Space Agency to exploit a range of pre-determined technical assessments and associated likely regulatory outcomes for a range of likely CubeSat systems, presented in the form of a traffic light system.

The outcome of the internal review conducted by the UK Space Agency is a series of recommendations detailed in the attached documents.

Submissions will be duly considered by the UK Space Agency and reflected accordingly in future implementation plans to address the regulation of CubeSats.





Introduction: proposed traffic light approach to Cubesat licensing within the UK’s Outer Space Act

PDF, 250KB, 1 page


This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology.
Request an accessible format.


If you use assistive technology (such as a screen reader) and need a
version of this document in a more accessible format, please email enquiries@bis.gsi.gov.uk.
Please tell us what format you need. It will help us if you say what assistive technology you use.







Draft Cubesat regulation recommendations

PDF, 637KB, 9 pages


This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology.
Request an accessible format.


If you use assistive technology (such as a screen reader) and need a
version of this document in a more accessible format, please email enquiries@bis.gsi.gov.uk.
Please tell us what format you need. It will help us if you say what assistive technology you use.



UK space object register

UK registry of outer space objects

Supplementary registry of space objects

Note: All formatting and links have been removed - click title or image to see full article.

Latest Vodcast

Latest Podcast

Advertise PTTU

NASA Picture of the Day

Astronomy Picture of the Day

astronomy_pod