Green light for satellite launch


It’s all systems go for Spaceport Cornwall after the UK space regulator issued the final remaining licences to Virgin Orbit.

The licences were issued following consent from Transport Secretary Mark Harper for Virgin Orbit’s launch and range licence, meaning he is in agreement with the licensing decisions made by the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

It is now anticipated that Virgin Orbit’s ‘Start Me Up’ mission will launch from Spaceport Cornwall, operating out of Cornwall Newquay Airport, early in the New Year. It will see a modified Boeing 747 be able to carry a rocket to be flown and released in a designated launch location over the Atlantic Ocean.

Ian Annett, deputy chief executive at the UK Space Agency, said: “With Virgin Orbit’s licences secured, we have achieved another key delivery milestone ahead of the first satellite launch from UK soil. I would like to thank our partners across Government and industry who continue to work hard to make our shared ambitions a reality.

“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.”

Melissa Thorpe, head of Spaceport Cornwall, added: “We are thrilled for the Virgin Orbit licenses to be in place for this historic launch. It has been an incredible effort by all partners to reach this milestone, and my team cannot wait to share in the excitement of the upcoming launch with everyone that has made it happen.

“Together we can now get these Earth benefitting technologies into low Earth orbit and open up ‘Space For Good’ from Cornwall.”

Establishing orbital launch capabilities in the UK is bringing investment and jobs into Cornwall and other regions across the UK. The growing space industry will boost innovation and is estimated to be worth £16.5 billion and support 47,000 jobs, with 2,500 apprentices opening the sector up to even more people.

Licences come after the regulator issued a spaceport licence to Spaceport Cornwall. These licences are one of many factors that need to be in place for launch, including airspace access arrangements, technical and operational readiness by the operator and suitable weather conditions.

They also add to the more than 150 satellite licences already approved by the UK Civil Aviation Authority since becoming the regulator in July 2021.