Virgin Orbit secures licences for UK’s first space launch
Virgin Orbit has received licenses to operate the UK’s first space launch.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson’s company has demonstrated that it has “taken all reasonable steps to ensure that the safety risks arising from take-off activities are as small as reasonably practicable”.
Virgin Orbit plans to launch from Spaceport Cornwall at Cornwall Airport Newquay in the coming weeks.
Named Start Me Up in honor of rock band The Rolling Stones, the mission will include a converted Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 aircraft and Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket.
The 747 will take off horizontally from the new facility at Cornwall Airport Newquay while carrying the rocket before being dropped 35,000ft over the Atlantic Ocean in southern Ireland.
The aircraft will return to the spaceport while the rocket will fire its engine and launch several small satellites into orbit with a variety of civilian and military applications.
They will be the first satellites to be launched from Europe.
British-made satellites have traditionally had to be sent to foreign spaceports to get them into space.
Tim Johnson, CAA Director of Space Regulation, said: “This is another important milestone in enabling the first-ever orbital space launch from UK shores and these licenses will assist Virgin Orbit in the final preparations for the launch.
“Efficient licensing is an integral part of UK space activities and with public safety at the heart of our decision-making we have worked with Virgin Orbit to review their applications and issue licenses within our expected timescales.”
Dan Hart, Chief Executive of Virgin Orbit, said: “Receiving Virgin Orbit’s range and launch licenses brings us one step closer to the first launch of a satellite from UK soil.
“This is an important milestone for the CAA and represents the successful completion of a tremendous effort that has involved building new regulations, new processes and new teams.
“With our partners at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, Spaceport Cornwall, the UK Space Agency and our payload customers, we are collectively approaching the first launch from Cornwall with a strong focus on a safe and successful mission for all.”
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “Today we are one step closer to opening Britain’s galactic gateway as Virgin Orbit receives a historic first license to enable Britain’s first-ever spaceflight.
“The planned launch strengthens our position as a leading space nation as we look to the future of space, which can spur growth and innovation across the industry and create thousands of jobs and apprenticeships.”