Spaceport Cornwall awarded UK’s first ever spaceport license

Cornwall Airport Newquay

Ready for lift-off! Spaceport Cornwall received the UK’s first ever spaceport license, meaning it is a step closer to launching its first satellites.  

“Cornwall is now ready to open up the use of Space for Good, and support the UK industry in harnessing the power of space to benefit life on Earth,” declared Melissa Thorpe, Head of Spaceport Cornwall, in a statement.  

The UK Civil Aviation Authority issued the license, thus confirming that the spaceport meets the appropriate safety, security, environment and other conditions to operate a UK spaceport.  

What role does a Boeing 747 play? 

Spaceport Cornwall, based at Cornwall Airport Newquay, is planning to launch six satellites into orbit. The payload will be launched into space orbit by Virgin Orbit, which uses a modified Boeing 747 to carry a rocket and launch payloads from the air.  

“This is an historic moment as we licence the first ever spaceport in the UK,” UK CAA chief executive Richard Moriarty commented in a statement on November 16, 2022, describing it as a “major milestone” on the UK’s path to becoming a leading launch nation.   

Spaceport Cornwall utilizes facilities at Cornwall Airport Newquay and Goonhilly Earth station. In an interview with AeroTime earlier this year, Thorpe said the combination of using an existing site, plus working with Virgin Orbit, has helped to speed the process along and made it more cost effective. 


What’s next? 

The UK CAA said it is working on several license applications and was in “very advanced stages” with Virgin Orbit on its applications for launch and range licenses, as well as working with the satellite operators. 

Virgin Orbit said it was looking forward to ensuring a “a safe and successful mission in the coming weeks.” 

The UK CAA is also looking at applications from other spaceports and operators and said it has recently started a consultation on the environmental effects of a proposed SaxaVord launch in Scotland. 


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