UK’s first spaceport approved

UK’s first spaceport approved

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

The UK Civil Aviation Authority has issued a licence for the first spaceport in the UK and Europe.

Spaceport Cornwall, based at Cornwall Airport Newquay, has demonstrated to the regulator it has met the appropriate safety, security, environment and other aspects to operate a UK spaceport. The approval also means Spaceport Cornwall has the infrastructure, equipment and services for horizontal space launches and follows consent from Transport Secretary Mark Harper.

This latest licence adds to nearly 150 satellite licences already approved by the UK Civil Aviation Authority since becoming the UK’s space regulator in July 2021. 

The UK CAA continues to work on several licence applications, including being in very advanced stages with Virgin Orbit on its applications for launch and range licences from a converted Boeing 747 that would take off from Newquay. It is also working with the satellite operators ahead of a proposed first UK launch expected to be in the coming weeks.

“This is an historic moment as we licence 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 this country to become a leading launch nation,” said Richard Moriarty, Chief Executive of the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

“To be the first Spaceport in the UK with a licence to operate is a historic moment. The regulatory environment created by the Civil Aviation Authority ensures that UK launch will set the global bar in terms of responsibility and transparency,” said Melissa Thorpe, Head of Spaceport Cornwall. “Cornwall is now ready to open up the use of Space for Good, and support the UK industry in harnessing the power of space to benefit life on Earth.”

The regulator is also progressing applications from a range of other spaceports and operators, and recently started a consultation on the environmental effects of a proposed SaxaVord launch in Scotland.

“Obtaining this license marks a point of distinction for Spaceport Cornwall, and is a key preparatory milestone for this first orbital launch from the UK,” said Dan Hart, Chief Executive of Virgin Orbit. “We appreciate the efforts of the British regulatory agencies with the support of the US Federal Aviation Administration in this first-time licensing process, as we strive in our respective roles to ensure a safe and successful mission in the coming weeks.”

“The first ever spaceport licence granted by the UK Civil Aviation Authority is another major milestone as we look forward to the first satellite launch from UK soil this year. Getting to this stage is a testament to the hard work from partners across government and industry to make our launch ambitions a reality and we are now tantalisingly close,” said Ian Annett, Deputy Chief Executive at the UK Space Agency.

“Establishing orbital launch capabilities in the UK is already bringing investment and jobs into Cornwall and other communities across the UK and inspiring a new generation to join our growing space sector.”

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