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Newquay Becomes UK’s first Airport with a Spaceport Licence

The UK’s first orbital space launch has moved one step closer to take-off as Cornwall Airport Newquay and Spaceport Cornwall have received the UK’s first ever spaceport licence.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority issued the licence on Nov 16, 2022, following consent from Transport Secretary Mark Harper, meaning he is in agreement with the licensing decisions made by the UK Civil Aviation Authority. 

Cornwall Airport Newquay and Spaceport Cornwall have demonstrated to the regulator it has met the appropriate safety, security, environment and other aspects to operate a UK spaceport. The approval also means Spaceport Cornwall has the infrastructure, equipment and services for horizontal space launches.

Sam O’Dwyer, Managing Director, Cornwall Airport Newquay commented on the exciting progress, “We are thrilled for the team at Spaceport Cornwall, based here at the heart of Cornwall Airport Newquay – as we receive the UK’s first ever spaceport licence from the Civil Aviation Authority.

“We are incredibly proud to be involved in this innovative project to enable space launch from Cornwall Airport Newquay with Spaceport Cornwall and Virgin Orbit.  The team effort that has gone into developing a spaceport facility to deliver safe and secure space operations for the UK’s first ever space launch has been simply inspiring and I’d like to say a massive congratulations to my team.”

Mel Thorpe, Head of Spaceport Cornwall added, “To be the first Spaceport in the UK with a licence to operate is a historic moment. The regulatory environment created by the Civil Aviation Authority ensures that UK launch will set the global bar in terms of responsibility and transparency.

“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.”

Richard Moriarty, Chief Executive of the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said: “This is an historic moment as we licence the first ever spaceport in the UK. We’re proud to be playing our part in facilitating the UK’s space ambitions through assessing the safety, security and other requirements of these activities. This is another major milestone to enable this country to become a leading launch nation. 

“When we became the space regulator, we committed to delivering in an open, effective and proportionate way, with public safety at its heart. Our work does not stop with this licence decision as we continue to assess other licence applications and oversee the effectiveness of licenced activities, all enabling the UK’s space sector to grow safely and securely.”

This latest licence adds to nearly 150 satellite licences already approved by the UK Civil Aviation Authority since becoming the UK’s space regulator in July 2021. 

The growing space industry will boost innovation and is estimated to be worth £16.5 billion and support 47,000 jobs, with 2,500 apprentices opening the sector up to even more people.   

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