Spaceport Cornwall is the UK’s Horizontal Launch solution, utilizing facilities at Cornwall Airport Newquay and Goonhilly Earth Station. Virgin Orbit is a company within the Virgin Group which provides launch services for small satellites. A partnership between Spaceport Cornwall and Virgin Orbit will result in the first ever space launch from UK soil by the end of 2022 and two launches per year over the next 8 years.
The Space Industry Act 2018 (SIA) regulates all spaceflight activities carried out in the UK and associated activities. SIA created the high-level framework to enable launches to take place from the UK from the early 2020s. In 2021, the UK Civil Aviation Authority expanded its responsibilities in 2021 to become the UK’s space regulator. To conduct operations, Spaceport Cornwall must be granted a spaceport operator license authorizing a specified site to launch a spacecraft or carrier aircraft and Virgin Orbit must be issued a launch operator license authorizes a person or organization to carry out spaceflight activities by the UK Civil Aviation Authority.
As part of the license applications, applicants must submit an Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE) for public consultation. The purpose of the AEE is to ensure that applicants for a spaceport license or launch operator license have considered the potential environmental effects of their intended activities and, if necessary, taken proportionate steps to avoid, mitigate, or offset the risks and their potential impact. The CAA may also use information provided as part of the AEE and the responses received from the consultation to determine relevant conditions to attach to the licenses.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has launched a consultation for the public and interested parties to have their voices heard on the assessment of environmental effects made by both Virgin Orbit and Spaceport Cornwall ahead of the proposed launch in Newquay before taking any final decision. Virgin Orbit must also obtain a marine license from the Marine Management Organization (MMO), which includes another public consultation where representations from interested parties are welcome. Both consultations end on 19th August and fall within the UK’s ambitious plan to set the bar for responsible space activities and become a leader in the field of space sustainability.
Access Partnership is closely monitoring the developments in space sustainability, as well as the regulatory environment surrounding all new space industries. For more information, contact Chrystel Erotokritou.