Virgin Orbit ready for historic UK launch after spaceport awarded license

A UK spaceport that will host Virgin Orbit’s first launch from non-US soil has received a license from Britain’s national regulator, paving the way for what will be Europe’s first-ever orbital liftoff.

Cornwall Spaceporta converted airport in the southwest of England, is now ready for what will be the UK’s first orbital launch. The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority issued a spaceport license to Newquay Airport on Britain’s west coast on Wednesday (November 16) after the airport demonstrated compliance with “legal requirements in terms of safety, security, the environment and other aspects,” the UK space agency said in a statement. statement (opens in a new tab).

The spaceport is now ready to perform horizontal space launches – launches that use aircraft as the first stage and release a small rocket above the thickest layer of earth’s atmosphere.

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pristine orbit will now start the “wet dress” rehearsal before the highly anticipated launchwhich represents the first step in the UK’s ambition to build a reputation as a go-to site for small satellite launches.

Virgin Orbit has already played four successful flights from the Mojave Air and Space Port in southern California, which has delivered dozens of small satellites in low earth orbit for a variety of customers.

During the next dress rehearsal, the company will perform the entire pre-launch procedure, including refueling and countdown, minus just the actual liftoff and launch.

“The first-ever spaceport license granted by the UK Civil Aviation Authority is another milestone as we look forward to the first satellite launch from UK soil this year,” said Ian Annett. , deputy director general of the British Space Agency, in the press release. “Reaching this stage is a testament to the hard work of government and industry partners to make our launch ambitions a reality, and we are now very close.

During its first mission to the United Kingdom, called Start Me Up after a famous song by the British group Rolling Stones, Virgin Orbit will place several small satellites in low Earth orbit, including a in-orbit manufacturing experience and one British military satellite.

“Being the first spaceport in the UK with a license to operate is a historic moment,” Melissa Thorpe, head of Spaceport Cornwall, said in the statement. “Corwall is now ready to open up the use of space for good and support British industry in harnessing the power of space to benefit life on Earth.”

The United Kingdom aims to become a major player in the market for the launch of small satellites. Two other sites are now awaiting approval to launch small vertical rockets, one located on the north coast of scotland and the other on the Shetland Islands off the coast of Scotland. Two UK-based companies, Orbex and Skyroraare currently finalizing the development of their small satellite launchers, hoping to make their first flights next year.

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