First UK Rocket Launch Faces Uncertainty Over Licensing Schedule4th Feb 2022
Virgin Orbit and Spaceport Cornwall are moving ahead with plans for the first UK rocket launch despite uncertainty over the timeline for regulatory licensing. Virgin Orbit plans to launch the first rocket from UK soil, using its LauncherOne craft, in summer 2022 from Cornwall Spaceport. However, both firms must receive a regulatory licence from the CAA (the British Civil Aviation Authority) before any launch can go ahead. Virgin Orbit, which is based in the US, will also need a licence from the United States Federal Aviation Administration before it can perform a launch overseas. However, despite uncertainty about this timeline, Virgin Orbit and Spaceport Cornwall remain confident that the first UK rocket launch will take place this year.
Spaceport Cornwall May Face Delays on UK Rocket Launch Plan
While Virgin Orbit and Cornwall Spaceport remain optimistic about their plans for the first UK rocket launch to take place this summer, CAA officials have advised caution. Speaking at a hearing for the UK Science and Technology Committee on January 12th, Tim Johnson refused to give an update on the progress of licences for the organisations. Spaceport Cornwall submitted their application for a licence in October. Virgin Orbit’s licence application has also been submitted.
Launch and Spaceport Licensing Process May Take Longer Than Expected
The leader of the CAA, Colin Macleod, also gave his thoughts on Spaceport Cornwall’s application for a licence. While Macleod stressed that he does expect a UK rocket launch in future, spaceport licences usually take 6-12 months to process. This would throw off the summer timeline for the first UK rocket launch proposed by Cornwall Spaceport and Virgin Orbit.