- Virgin Orbit has obtained the licenses required for its planned UK launch from Spaceport Cornwall, the first-ever orbital mission from a UK site.
- The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) issued the licenses after Transport Secretary Mark Harper approved Virgin Orbit’s launch and range licenses.
Virgin Orbit satisfied the licensing requirements by demonstrating to the CAA that it had taken all necessary precautions to minimize safety risks from launch activities.
The company also obtained its range control license from the space regulator, which allows it to issue warning notices to keep people out of dangerous areas and monitor the rocket’s progress.
CAA Granted License
The CAA granted the licenses within 15 months, beating the expected timeline and positioning the UK’s regulatory framework as competitive with other international space regulators. The Start Me Up mission will be launched from Spaceport Cornwall, operating out of Cornwall Newquay Airport, with a modified Boeing 747 carrying a rocket to be released in a designated launch location over the Atlantic Ocean.
Tim Johnson, the CAA’s director for space regulation, said that effective licensing forms an integral part of UK space activity, with public safety at the heart of their decision-making. They have worked with Virgin Orbit to assess their applications and issue licenses within the expected timelines.
Dan Hart, CEO of Virgin Orbit, called this “a major milestone” for the CAA. It represents the successful completion of an enormous effort, including the construction of new regulations, processes, and teams.
In addition to the range and launch licenses granted to Virgin Orbit, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has also issued a spaceport license to Spaceport Cornwall. These licenses are just a few of the necessary components for a successful launch, including airspace access arrangements, technical and operational readiness by the operator, and suitable weather conditions.
The issuance of these licenses marks a significant milestone in the development of the UK’s space industry, which is estimated to be worth £16.5 billion and support 47,000 jobs, with 2,500 apprenticeships opening up the sector to even more people.