Brexit Britain set for first-ever rocket launch as UK company takes ‘big step forward’
Scotland: Spaceport and satellite launch site explained
The licence application marks another important milestone in Orbex’s quest to begin commercial space launches from the UK. Space Hub Sutherland, the world’s first carbon-neutral spaceport, is currently the only spaceport in the UK to have received full planning permission.
Construction of the spaceport is scheduled to begin later this year.
Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex, explained: “This licence application is another big step forward for Orbex, and is one of several tracks running in parallel that will enable commercial launch operations to commence from Sutherland.
“The application process is rigorous and detailed, with a strong focus on safety.”
He added: “It has taken a large team more than two years to complete the investigations and analysis required to submit the licence application today.
“We are looking forward to working with the Civil Aviation Authority over the coming months as they assess our application.”
The CAA launch licence is intended to ensure operators meet regulatory requirements set by the UK’s Space Industry Act 2018 (SIA) and Space Industry Regulations 2021 (SIR).
The UK introduced the legislation to support its national space strategy.
The Orbex Prime rocket is due to be tested on the Orbex LP1 launch platform at a facility in Kinloss, close to Orbex headquarters in Forres, where full ‘dress rehearsals’ of launch procedures will take place.
Prime is described by Orbex as a “micro-launcher” which designed to transport small satellites weighing roughly 150kg into low Earth orbit.
Designers claim Prime will be the world’s most environmentally friendly space rocket with a carbon footprint up to 96 per cent lower than comparable space launch programmes.
Separately, ten space clusters across the UK have been given a boost, thanks to new UK Space Agency funding.
More than £600,000 will go towards supporting activities that create jobs and growth, including recruiting space cluster managers, strengthening local space sector leadership groups and developing new business opportunities.
Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “The National Space Strategy sets out a vision for ensuring we have a thriving, resilient and well-connected space ecosystem across the whole of the UK.
“We are building on our strengths in space such as satellite manufacturing, while supporting emerging markets like in-orbit servicing, to unlock the growth in the UK space sector and help level up the economy.”
Will Whitehorn, President of the trade association UKspace, added: “Additional grants of this nature are hugely important in helping to communicate the potential for the growing ‘New Space’ economy.
“Monitoring and understanding our world from space has already become crucial to our survival.”
He added: “Now industrialisation in space will be driven by the need to get to Net Zero and mitigate climate change by shifting more and more carbon generating digital activities outside the atmosphere, and even producing solar power in space.
“The opportunities these activities will bring to the UK should not be underestimated, from space launch to digital services and even infinity and beyond!”