CAA Public Consultations Open For Virgin Orbit Launches

26th Jul 2022
CAA Public Consultations Open For Virgin Orbit Launches

Virgin Orbit will undergo public oversight of its environmental management schemes by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The CAA announced the measure as part of the preparations for granting Virgin Orbit launch licenses. The CAA made the announcement on 22nd July and will carry them out through 22nd August.

Virgin Orbit also announced a proposal on 22nd July to carry out two horizontal satellite launches per annum until 2030. These launches will be undertaken from Spaceport Cornwall, which is situated at Cornwall Airport in Newquay. The announcement comes with the 22nd July opening by the Civil Aviation Authority of public consultations on the environmental aspects of the proposed launches.

The Virgin Group company expects to launch once in 2022, and then twice yearly for the rest of the period.

CAA and the Marine Management Organisation

Tim Johnson, CAA policy director, said the following in a statement:

“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.”

As part of the approval process, the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) will look at all of the comments in terms of how the deposit will impact the marine environment. The CAA will then consider all of the comments regarding the Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE).

What does the launch system consist of?

The launch system is made up of a modified Boeing 747 aircraft, which will carry a two-stage rocket under the wing to be launched in the air. This is being assessed for AEE purposes.

The carrier aircraft soars to an altitude of roughly 35,000 feet, and then the rock will be released. The engine is fired and will ascend to the intended orbit, where the release of the satellite payload then happens. 

The trajectory starts with the rocket being released west of the UK and southwest of Ireland. It is then going to continue in a southwest direction over the Atlantic Ocean. From here, the Stage 1 section of the rocket and payload fairings are going to be jettisoned and placed into Portugual’s waters. The satellite payloads will then be let free into orbit. The CAA assessment needs to take all of these aspects into consideration.

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