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What is the Outer Space Act?

The Outer Space Act 1986 (the Act) and The Outer Space Act 1986 (Gibraltar) Order 1996 (the Order) are the legal basis for the regulation of activities in outer space (including the launch of space objects, procuring the launch of space objects and operation of space objects) carried on by persons connected with Gibraltar. The Order confers licensing and other powers on the Governor, which powers are delegated to the Chief Executive of the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority (GRA). The Act and the Order seeks to ensure compliance with the UK's obligations under international conventions covering the use of outer space, including liability for damage caused by space objects and the registration of objects launched into outer space.

Application of the Act

The Act applies to United Kingdom nationals (as defined in the Act) Scottish firms, and bodies incorporated under law of any part of the United Kingdom, and the Order extends the application to bodies incorporated under the laws of Gibraltar carrying on the following activities in the United Kingdom, Gibraltar or elsewhere:

  • launching or procuring the launch of a space object;
  • operating a space objects;
  • any activity in outer space

Persons to whom the Act and Order apply who are engaged in the following activities do not in our view require a licence:-

  • the leasing of space segment satellite capacity (transponders) from international inter-governmental satellite organisations or privately owned entities for use by the lessee or by a person sub-letting the capacity;
  • the utilisation of space segment capacity (transponders) using earth stations for either transmission or reception purposes. This exception does not apply to persons involved in telemetry, tracking and control of satellites in orbit;
  • activities in outer space which are governed by a separate international agreement securing compliance with the international obligations of the UK may be excepted from the licensing requirement under section 3(2)(b) of the Act. Certain other activities in outer space which impose no international obligations on the UK may also be excepted from the licensing requirement under section 3(3) of the Act.

Applicants should consult the GRA if they are in any doubt whether they need a licence.