By Rob Coppinger in London
The British National Space Centre (BNSC), which oversees UK space activity, is to carry out a consultation over the next few months on proposals for a space tourist services licensing system for UK companies.
Under a series of international treaties a nation state is responsible for launches conducted by its citizens from anywhere on the planet.
Those treaties are the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, the 1968 Agreement on Rescue and Return, the 1972 Liability Convention and the 1976 Registration Convention.
Consequently, Sir Richard Branson’s UK-registered Virgin Galactic will require BNSC permission to operate its suborbital flights from its intended US spaceports.
“At the moment, we are keeping an eye on developments in this field and considering the issue of managing space tourism with the [UK] Civil Aviation Authority,” says BNSC.
The centre says it has had preliminary discussions with Virgin Galactic.
The BNSC is to ask stakeholders’, which could be space law firms, insurance companies and relevant government departments, their views on space tourism for the manned suborbital flight licensing system it thinks it will need under the UK’s Outer Space Act, which became law in 1986.
Space Adventures, the US company that is developing the suborbital Explorer vehicle, expects to operate its service from Russia. For that it will still need a licence from the US Federal Aviation Administration.
Read more about the Outer Space Treaty, the United Nations' charter that provides the basic framework on international space travel from the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs space law web page.