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Virgin Orbit Receives the UK’s First Orbital Launch License

By Rachel Jewett | December 22, 2022
Virgin Orbit is shipping its launch hardware to Cornwall, U.K. Photo: Virgin Orbit

Virgin Orbit shipping its launch hardware to Cornwall, U.K. Photo: Virgin Orbit

The United Kingdom issued Virgin Orbit the nation’s first orbital launch license, clearing the way for the first orbital launch from the UK. Virgin Orbit announced Dec. 22 that the U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has issued launch and range control licenses for the “Start Me Up” mission from Spaceport Cornwall. 

These licenses demonstrate that the CAA determined that “all reasonable steps have been taken by Virgin Orbit to ensure the desired safety, security, and environmental stewardship” of the mission. 

Virgin Orbit expects the launch window to open “in the coming weeks” and confirmed the launch system and nine satellites on the mission are in good health. 

“This is a major milestone for the CAA, and represents the successful completion of an enormous effort, which has included the construction of new regulations, new processes, and new teams,” Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said. “Our team is laser-focused on execution of final checkouts, launch rehearsal, and ultimately launch, and we will continue working with our friends and partners across agencies and governments to be ready to light this candle once a launch window is finalized.”

Virgin Orbit’s rocket arrived at Spaceport Cornwall in October, and the CAA issued Cornwall the first-ever spaceport license in November. The historic mission was originally targeted for this past summer, but faced regulatory delays multiple times