Contributing to Evidence-Based Space Policy 

Access to and use of Space is of increasing national significance, identified as a key technological, research and strategic priority for the UK. The national interest in space is based in part on strategic civil and military security concerns, as society becomes increasingly dependent on space-based systems for Positioning/Navigation/Timing, 5G, climate change, space weather, integrated applications such as the Internet of Things and more. And partly through the economic opportunities offered by a rapidly changing world market, with the UK Space Agency's priority to capture 10% of the global market for space by 2030, as set out in the Space Innovation and Growth Strategy.

The rise of “new-space” and rapidly evolving technological capabilities drive significant disruption; for example satellite mega-constellation projects such as SpaceX’s Starlink, OneWeb, and Amazon’s Kuiper project that propose to bring high-speed internet access anywhere on Earth. Nationally, as the UK has now left the EU, there will be a need to replace those aspects of space policy and law hitherto covered for the UK by the EU, and developing and implementing new space policy.

A strong evidence-based space policy and law is therefore crucial to navigating the fluid and dynamic challenges posed by these developments. Space Lab is working in collaboration with the London Institute of Space Policy and Law (ISPL) to understand this challenge and translate Imperial's technical expertise into the policy domain. Since 2020, Space Lab and ISPL have completed three studies in this area, which we summarise below. This work has been performed with the support of the Imperial Policy Forum.

Contribution of Evidence-Based Information by Imperial College London informing UK Space Safety Policy (2020)

In 2020, Space Lab and ISPL worked together to explore where Imperial, through Space Lab, can further contribute to the formation of evidence-based Space Safety Policy. The work examined:

  • the current state of UK Space Safety Policy;
  • the capabilities and expertise of Imperial in Space Safety; and
  • the potential for Imperial to contribute evidence-based information to the development of UK Space Safety Policy.

A Report, Imperial Space Lab Policy Paper 2020summarising the work and the findings of the project is now available. 

The work and its findings have had demonstrated impact by being presented at a briefing event to key Industry and Government stakeholders, also being publicised in articles and blog posts written in conjunction with The Forum.

Satellite Mega-Constellation Safety and Security: Importance of Evidence-Based Information (2021)

In 2021, Space Lab and ISPL continued their collaborative work exploring the specific problem of Space Safety and Security as applied to Mega-Constellations. Using Imperial's technical expertise, the work explored:

  • The current status of Mega-Constellation development;
  • Space Safety and Security challenges stimulated by the rise of Mega-Constellations, in the areas of Terrestrial Environmental Impacts of Space Activities, Space Debris, Planetary Defence, Space Weather, Space Security, and Space Traffic Managment;
  • The ability of Imperial College London to contribute to the development of evidence-based Policy and Strategy.

A Report summarising the project and its findings is available from this link: Imperial Space Lab Policy Paper 2021

Environmental Sustainability: Impact of Mega-Constellations and Private Space Launches (2022)

Ensuring that our use of space is sustainable is perhaps the biggest challenge we face today in the space domain. In 2022, Space Lab and ISPL investigated this issue, considering issues relating to the impact of mega-constellations and private space launches on space environmental sustainability. Using Imperial's technical expertise, this work explored several areas relating to sustainability including:

  • Natural resource consumption;
  • Local environmental pollution;
  • Local noise pollution and radio frequency exposure;
  • Light pollution; and
  • Changes to composition of the atmosphere, including climate change impact.

A Report summarising the project and its findings is available from the following link: Imperial Space Lab Policy Paper 2022.