CAA launches space consultation


The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has launched a public consultation on the environmental effects of the UK’s first space launch from Cornwall.

The first satellite launch is set to take place from Newquay later this year, but first Spaceport Cornwall must have a spaceport operator licence and Virgin Orbit must be issued a launch operator licence by the CAA.

As part of their licence applications, the organisations have submitted an Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE) for public consultation. The assessment gives the organisations the opportunity to show they have considered all environmental effects and demonstrate measures they will take to avoid, mitigate, or offset any significant risks.

The CAA will now consider the Assessment of Environmental Effects and the responses to the consultation as part of the licence application process.

Virgin Orbit must also obtain a marine licence from the Marine Management Organisation, which includes another public consultation that is currently running in conjunction with the CAA.

If the licence applications are successful, it brings the UK one step closer to its first ever space launch from UK soil.

Tim Johnson, policy director for the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said: “This is the first time the Civil Aviation Authority has consulted on an organisation’s environmental assessment around a space launch.

“As the UK’s space regulator, it’s important we review environmental effects before issuing licences, and we are working closely with the Marine Management Organisation to make sure Newquay residents and businesses’ voices are heard before making any final decisions.”

Additionally, Spaceport Cornwall has widened the scope of the AEE and commissioned a Carbon Life Cycle Report, which has been undertaken by the University of Exeter.

This report has performed a Life Cycle Analysis – considering the impact of the wider activity around launch and onsite at Spaceport Cornwall.

Melissa Thorpe, head of Spaceport Cornwall, added: Spaceport Cornwall is on a mission to become the world’s most responsible and ethical gateway to space and the first step towards this, is understanding our impact and being transparent about that impact.

“This is why the AEE coupled with our Life Cycle Analysis is a major milestone, because now we can move beyond offsetting, and invest in areas to bring the impacts down completely. This is just the beginning and we hope to set the bar for responsible launch around the world.”