Access to space continues to be a hot topic for the sector as a result of the increasing number of satellite constellations foreseen to be launched, thus demanding a greater supply of launchers and spaceports.

In Europe, ensuring access to space remains a priority following the constraints arising from loss of access to Soyuz rockets and limitations with Ariane 6 and Vega-C. It is expected that 2024 may thus also be able to respond to the regulatory goal of Europe’s autonomous access to space as established in the 2021 EU Space Programme Regulation. Other heavy launchers and micro launchers are also expected to lift off in 2024 to respond to growing demand.

Spaceports are also a central topic in this regard. In Portugal, the national space law was recently amended by Decree-Law 20/2024, of 2 February, which was rectified by Declaration 19/2024/1. Among other aspects, the amendment creates a new licence, with a national scope, for the operation of launch centres in Portugal. Although Decree-Law 20/2024 is already in force, the approval, by the Portuguese Space Authority, of a Regulation that will govern the way in which the license granting procedure is carried out, is still pending. Nevertheless, this new legal framework paves the way for a more substantial role of Portugal in space, a goal also reflected in the envisaged Earth Observation Atlantic Constellation, currently in development, and the launch of the second Portuguese satellite (the Aeros MH-1) in 4 March 2024.

New spaceports have also been planned, set up or operated. For instance, in the UK, SaxaVord spaceport was granted a license for vertical rocket launches, allowing for first launches in 2024, whilst Spaceport Cornwall is expected to resume launches in 2025. Norway opened the Andøya Spaceport in late 2023, further aiming to revise its space legislation, whilst Spaceport Esrange, for mainland EU’s orbital launches, was inaugurated. In Germany, a demo mission took place to show the capability to launch from a maritime platform, thus laying the foundations for a German spaceport in the North Sea. Likewise, in the US, demonstration of offshore launch capabilities have taken place. In turn, Oman aims to develop the first Middle East spaceport, whilst Djibouti signed a memorandum of understanding with Hong Kong Aerospace Technology Group to develop an international commercial spaceport. In India, a new spaceport is also to be set up.

Other measures to ensure competitiveness of spaceports have been put forward: in the US, on February 28, the Secure U.S. Leadership in Space Act of 2024 was introduced in the House of Representatives and Senate to grant spaceports access to tax-exempt bonds with a view to facilitate expansion and investment in infrastructure and technology.