Private companies could take part in Space Launch Centres in Portugal
The publication of the revision of the Space Law allows the Portuguese Space Agency to promote the installation of space launch centres on national territory.
With the publication in the Official Gazette of the revision of the Space Law, through Decree-Law no. 20/2024, of 2 February, the rules for licensing space launch centres on Portuguese territory were laid down.
The licence to operate a space launch centre, like the licences for space operations, is obtained from Anacom (National Communications Authority), the Portuguese space authority, after a licensing process has been carried out, partly instructed by the Portuguese Space Agency, and which involves the prior approval of the government.
For the president of the Portuguese Space Agency, Ricardo Conde, “this is an essential instrument for positioning Portugal in a sector of strategic interest for Europe, creating attractive conditions for new operators of space access services from national territory and for materialising the goal of making Portugal a space nation”.
Pursuing the work of promoting Portugal’s potential for creating launch centres, Ricardo Conde says that “with this revision of the law, all the conditions are in place for defining the necessary procedures for carrying out these operations in Portugal later this month”.
According to the president of the Portuguese Space Agency, “the Agency has been promoting the national potential for the installation of return capacities and access to space, from national territory, and with this revision of the Law, the conditions are met for the necessary procedures for carrying out these operations in Portugal”.
“This is about licensing locations for an activity that will be purely commercial, in other words, with the revision of the law we are simply going to create the conditions for there to be a commercial operator that has the capacity to compete in the international market from national territory”, emphasises Ricardo Conde.
In the licensing process, the Portuguese Space Agency must work in close cooperation with all relevant public entities, including regional entities when the “intended location of the launch centre is on their land or sea territory, including, in this case, the sea areas adjacent to the respective archipelagos”, as per the Decree-Law.
“The law allows one to apply for a licence to operate a launch centre anywhere in Portugal, but there are several safety conditions that must be certified for an activity of this complexity”, says Ricardo Conde, highlighting the unique geographical position of the Atlantic archipelagos, in particular the Azores and the island of Santa Maria. For licence applications for the archipelagos, the law requires the preliminary hearing and binding opinion of the respective regional government.
The Space Agency has to submit a preliminary draft decision to the Portuguese government, together with all the opinions and information it has gathered, including its own opinion and the Space Authority’s draft decision, and for this purpose it can rely on national and international experts, including the European Space Agency. It should be noted that the Portuguese government can impose conditions associated with the installation, construction and operation of the launch centre, such as those of a technological, environmental or safety nature, which must be reflected in the licence to be issued by the Space Authority.
At a time when the European Union is discussing the creation of a space law, Portugal is among a small group of countries that have a legal framework governing space operations and has been contacted by other member states to make its law known.