Cornwall Launch ‘Not Before Christmas’8th Dec 2022
Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart issued a statement that the company’s upcoming launch would occur after 25th December. Virgin Orbit had stated that the ‘Start Me Up’ mission’s Cornwall launch would occur on 14th December.
Bureaucratic and technical delays
Hart stated that both administrative and technical issues still needed to be resolved. Virgin Orbit has not received the needed clearance to actually launch a rocket yet. Moreover, further approvals are required regarding the individual satellites within the Launcher One rocket. The BBC quotes Hart’s statement, including that there is “additional technical work needed to establish system health and readiness”.
The bureaucratic impediments to the launch have been in focus this Autumn, with Spaceport Cornwall receiving its permit for rendering launch related services only on 16th November. Both Virgin Orbit and Spaceport Cornwall have emphasized that they are working closely with the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority on the new procedures needed for the first-ever satellite launch from the UK.
Forecasting the Cornwall launch
It is unclear when the the red tape will be cut, but there are other factors that can help shape expectations regarding the launch. Spaceport Cornwall and Virgin Orbit need to rehearse the fueling process, and that should happen soon. Completing these rehearsals should warrant a tweet.
On a longer time frame, the notices closing off airspace and the ocean off the Irish coast for the duration of the launch need to be given at least two weeks in advance. Giving notice might not directly generate any press coverage.
Lastly, there is the matter of the permissions still outstanding. The focus to date has been on the one required by Virgin Orbit. However, the approvals needed for the satellites within Launcher One have gotten far less press. Are there other permits required that have escaped the public eye?