Image source, Spaceport Cornwall
Image caption, Spaceport Cornwall’s first mission is expected to be conducted by Virgin Orbit in the coming weeks
Spaceport Cornwall will be allowed to host the UK’s first space launch after it was granted an operating licence by the aviation regulator.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said the site in Newquay could be used for sending satellites into space.
Its first mission is expected to be conducted by the Virgin Orbit company in the coming weeks.
The mission has been given the title Start Me Up in tribute to The Rolling Stones.
The authority said it was in “very advanced stages” with Virgin Orbit on other applications for launch and range licences, as well as discussions with the satellite operators.
A repurposed Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 aircraft named Cosmic Girl and Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket travelled from California to Spaceport Cornwall last month.
The 747 will take off while carrying the rocket, before releasing it at 35,000ft (10,500m) over the Atlantic Ocean 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 defence applications.
Image source, Getty Images
Image caption, The rocket will be launched from a modified passenger 747
The CAA said Spaceport Cornwall had demonstrated it had met the appropriate safety, security and environmental aspects to operate a spaceport in the UK.
The authority said it was in “very advanced stages” with Virgin Orbit on other applications for launch and range licences, as well as the satellite operators, ahead of a proposed launch.
Richard Moriarty, chief executive of the CAA, said the issuing of the operating licence was a “historic moment” for 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,” he said.
“This is another major milestone to enable this country to become a leading launch nation.”
Previously satellites produced in the UK have had to be sent to foreign spaceports to be launched into space.
Melissa Thorpe, head of Spaceport Cornwall, said the region would help “support the UK industry in harnessing the power of space to benefit life on Earth”.
“The regulatory environment created by the Civil Aviation Authority ensures that UK launch will set the global bar in terms of responsibility and transparency,” she said.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “Virgin Orbit’s planned launch reinforces our position as a leading space nation as we look to the future of spaceflight which can spur growth and innovation across the sector, as well as creating thousands of jobs and apprenticeships.”
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