UK issues launch licence for Spaceport
November 16, 2022
By Chris Forrester
The Spaceport Cornwall facility has received its licence to operate from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). It means a planned launch by Virgin Orbit’s Launcher One rocket plane can now go ahead.
The CAA says the site in Newquay, Cornwall can now be used for sending satellites into space. The first mission is expected to be conducted by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit company in the coming weeks.
A repurposed Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 named Cosmic Girl and Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket travelled from California to Spaceport Cornwall last week. The mission has already been dubbed ‘Start Me Up’ in tribute to British rock band The Rolling Stones.
The converted 747 will take off horizontally while carrying the rocket under its Port wing, before releasing the rocket at 35,000ft over the Atlantic and to the south of Ireland. The plane will return to the spaceport, while the rocket will ignite its engine and take multiple small satellites into orbit with a variety of civil and government applications.
Richard Moriarty, the chief executive of the CAA, said: “This is an historic moment as we license the first ever spaceport in the UK. We’re proud to be playing our part in facilitating the UK’s space ambitions through assessing the safety, security and other requirements of these activities. This is another major milestone to enable [the UK] to become a leading launch nation.”
Melissa Thorpe, the head of Spaceport Cornwall, said it was “ready to open up the use of space for good”.
Dan Hart, CEO at Virgin Orbit, said the licence was a “key preparatory milestone” and Virgin hoped to launch its first rocket from the site “in the coming weeks”.