Bermuda Space FAQ’s
Does Bermuda have a space agency?
No. Currently, there is no standalone space agency in Bermuda.
Who is responsible for space matters in Bermuda?
The Ministry of Home Affairs oversees the development of the country’s space and satellite sector and, as such, is the primary body responsible for implementing the national space strategy, which can be found here: www.space.gov.bm.
The Ministry of Home Affairs established the Space and Satellite Policy Advisory Panel in June 2018 to provide advice on the development of the space and satellite industries in Bermuda and to serve as a vehicle for guiding Bermuda’s advocacy efforts on behalf of the satellite industry in international policy fora. The Panel is subdivided into six working groups:
- ITU Spectrum and Regulatory Provisions Working Group
- Earth Stations Regulations Working Group
- Space Sustainability Working Group
- Space Insurance Working Group
- Small Satellites Working Group
- STEM Education Working Group
How are Bermuda’s activities within the space industry governed?
A key relationship is between Government House and the UK Space Agency, under the Outer Space Act 1986, as extended to Bermuda. The UK is one of the three depositary states for the UN’s Outer Space Treaty, and the Outer Space Act is the legislation by which the UK ensures that its international obligations under that treaty and related international agreements are met. This includes licensing companies, launching satellites and conducting other activities in outer space.
Another important relationship is with the Office of Communications (Ofcom). Ofcom represents the UK, and the British Overseas Territories and the Crown dependencies, at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN agency responsible for managing allocations of radio spectrum and allotments of satellite orbits at the international level. That role includes submitting applications for orbital locations and radio frequency assignments for satellite networks on our behalf. The regulatory framework which we have established for Bermuda companies to file a satellite network was developed in cooperation with Ofcom and ensures that Bermuda applicants meet Ofcom’s requirements and those of the ITU, as well as our own, ensuring that the process is clear, consistent, streamlined and transparent. We will continue to work closely with Ofcom as the international regulatory framework continues to evolve.
Does Bermuda have connections to other space-related organisations and agencies?
U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Bermuda has deep ties to the space industry that began with the tracking of spacecraft launches. Bermuda’s relationship with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which continues to this day, got its start roughly sixty years ago when the space agency looked to Bermuda for help tracking some of the earliest spacecraft launches. During the Mercury Project in the 1960s, Bermuda was an integral part of NASA’s ground communications network. While the primary control center for the project was located at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, a secondary control center was established in Bermuda. Following the Mercury Project and through most of the Space Shuttle Program, Bermuda hosted a tracking station for NASA to support space exploration.
NASA closed the tracking station in 1997 due to the development of space-based tracking systems but signed an agreement in 2012 to reestablish the station. The agreement has been extended to 2026, and NASA continues to track launches from Bermuda: Today, NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility operates a permanent tracking station from Cooper’s Island, which supports International Space Station cargo resupply missions and will support upcoming commercial crew launches to the orbital laboratory, as well as NASA’s upcoming integrated launches of the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft on missions to the Moon.
European Space Agency (ESA)
Bermuda also has a relationship with the European Space Agency (ESA) centered on tracking the launch of spacecraft. In 2012, the ESA set up a temporary tracking and telemetry station at Cooper’s Island to track the launch of a rocket carrying a French satellite. This was to take advantage of Bermuda’s important geographic location. The ESA launch site in French Guiana is used in some cases for northbound launches. Once the vehicle is out of range of tracking facilities there, it cannot be seen again until it is within range of facilities in Canada. Bermuda fills this gap, ensuring continuity during a critical early stage of the launch. Today, the ESA continues to track launches from Bermuda, and we anticipate that this will continue for the foreseeable future.
Why is Bermuda interested in the Space Industry?
The Government of Bermuda is pursuing activities related to the space industry as part of its broader effort to grow and diversify the economy. It recognises that the commercial space industry is undergoing a period of unprecedented innovation and growth. This is creating new revenue streams and job opportunities in the industry and the Government has developed a national space strategy to seize these opportunities for the benefit of all Bermudians.
Does Bermuda currently own any orbital allotments and are they in use?
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN agency responsible for managing allocations of radio spectrum and allotments of satellite orbits at the international level, has allocated a total of four satellite orbit locations, and their associated Broadcast Satellite Service (BSS) and Fixed Satellite Service (FSS) radio channels, to Bermuda.
The orbital locations are at 96.2°WL (BSS), 92.3°WL (BSS), 37.1°WL (FSS) and 31W°L (BSS). After successive governments took steps to build upon the ITU allotments, in 2013, two commercial companies, SES and EchoStar, collaborated to bring the allotment at 96.2°WL into use, effectively creating Bermuda’s first satellite network.
The other three allotments remain unused. Two of these are not solely “Bermudian”: One is shared with the Caribbean Community, and one is shared with the UK and other Overseas Territories in the Atlantic and Caribbean. Bringing either of these into use would present the opportunity for enhanced cooperation and capacity-building through international partnerships.
How can I file a satellite network with the ITU through Bermuda?
To file a satellite network with the ITU through Bermuda, an operator must submit a proposal to the Ministry of Home Affairs that includes corporate and commercial information, as well as technical details about the project. After reviewing an operator’s application to ensure it meets these requirements, the Ministry will send the proposal to the United Kingdom (Ofcom) for filing with the ITU. As the project progresses, the Minister will issue a series of certificates to the operator, and issue a license when the network is brought into use.
What are the advantages of filing through Bermuda?
Filing through Bermuda affords operators several advantages. With a standard administrative fee of only $12,000, the filing process in Bermuda is relatively low-cost. As a smaller jurisdiction, applicants do not have to wade through the cumbersome bureaucracy often experienced in other countries, resulting in a process that is efficient and personable. The Ministry of Home Affairs, which processes applications, acts as the operator’s advocate and is prepared to engage in coordination meetings to the extent necessary. Moreover, the Ministry’s space and satellite staff are consummate professionals who understand applicants’ businesses.
What is Bermuda’s stance on third party liability insurance for launched satellites, including de-orbit insurance?
Bermuda’s stance is similar to that of the United Kingdom Space Agency (UKSA). To better protect both operators and the UK Government from third-party claims, the UKSA may also require licensees to hold third-party liability (TPL) insurance for regulated activities, which currently consist of in-orbit operations and the procurement of overseas launches.
Are there opportunities for ground stations?
Bermuda is ideally positioned for those needing to monitor space launches over the Atlantic Ocean. The Government of Bermuda has a streamlined process in place for authorising earth stations and is in the process of finalising regulations to ensure earth stations deployed on the island are subject to the minimum amount of regulation necessary, while ensuring they can appropriately interface with other systems and services, including international registration, if needed.