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House of Commons Hansard
In-orbit Research Satellites: Contingent Liability
20 May 2020
Volume 676

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I am today laying a Departmental Minute to advise that the Ministry of Defence has received approval from Her Majesty’s Treasury to recognise a new contingent liability associated with the operation of satellites conducting in-orbit research by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).

The departmental minute describes the contingent liability that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) will hold as part of its space science and technology programme.

Dstl has installed a ground station at its Portsdown West site, which will contribute to supporting space research activities, upskilling civilian and military personnel in satellite mission operations, and task its first research satellites for the Ministry of Defence. Through this programme, MOD will develop the skills and capability to achieve its strategic objectives in the space domain.

The contingent liability will last the duration of Dstl’s operation of the satellites and will come into effect if a satellite collision was caused via Dstl operation. Mitigations are in place against risks to minimise likelihood and impact which are deemed to be 0.001-0.01%. Her Majesty’s Treasury has approved a value of up to £500 million for the contingent liability to cover the maximum estimated damage cost resulting from a collision. The MOD will note the liability in its accounts May 2020.

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