• You must have the appropriate licence or permission from the CAA to conduct a launch or return, operate a spaceport, provide range control services or launch a suborbital rocket.
    Before you apply for a licence for any spaceflight activities it is essential you understand what type of licence you need


    Types of licence

  • A launch operator licence authorises a person to carry out spaceflight activities that include launching a launch vehicle or launching a carrier aircraft and a launch vehicle. 
    A launch vehicle means a craft or a space object which is a vehicle, that is used for the purpose of the operator's spaceflight activities. 
     
    A return operator licence authorises a person to operate a launch vehicle, only when that launch vehicle has been launched from Overseas (not from the United Kingdom) and will return to, and land in the United Kingdom. 
    These are collectively referred to as operator licences.  

    A range control licence authorises a person to provide particular range control services in support of licensed spaceflight activities at a designated range.

    A range means a zone or zones which are subject to restrictions, exclusions or warnings for keeping it clear at the relevant times from; persons or things that might pose a hazard to spaceflight activities, and persons or things to which spaceflight activities might pose a hazard.

    The range service provider supports a launch operator by providing risk mitigations to hazards identified in the launch operator's safety case.


    The main functions provided by range service providers that may fall into the scope of any specific licence are:

    • Co-ordination of the range
    • Notification of hazard areas
    • Identification of hazard areas, range limits and other parameters
    • Tracking of the launch vehicle including for return operations
    • Surveillance of the range
    • Boundary controls required under a launch safety case

    A spaceport licence allows a person or organisation to operate a spaceport (i.e. a site from which spacecraft or carrier aircraft can be launched or a site at which controlled and planned landings of spacecraft can take place). 


    Spaceports that can demonstrate it has the appropriate infrastructure, equipment, and services can be licensed for vertical or horizontal launches (or potentially both). 

    An orbital operator licence authorises a person or organisation to; procure the launch of a space object into orbit, operate a space object in orbit or conduct other activity in outer space. Common examples of activities that would be licensed under an orbital operator licence are the procurement of a satellite launch and the operation of a satellite.

    A licence may also cover any other activity in outer space and is not limited to activities in Earth's orbit.  For example, an orbital operator licence would be needed for missions in lunar orbit, lunar surface missions or deep space probes.  

     

    A large rocket permission allows an operator to carry out activity with a rocket that is not capable of exceeding the stratosphere. The permission is for a specific activity and is not a general licence allowing for repeat activities. This means if an operator wishes to conduct multiple launches, they will need to be granted a permission for each activity.

     

  • Interaction between licence types

    In general, spaceport, launch and return operator and range operator licences may be applied for concurrently or separately. However, a launch and return licence application must identify which spaceport it intends to operate from, and details of the spaceport licensee or licence applicant. Therefore, a launch operator licence application must be submitted alongside or after an associated spaceport licence application. Some information (e.g. environmental assessments) may be useful to more than one application type, so it may be sensible for associated operators to coordinate their activities.


    Where all operators associated with the proposed spaceflight activities have not yet been identified (e.g. a range control service provider) during the licensing process, more information may be required following the grant of a licence, but prior to any launch, on how all operators will coordinate, once they are all identified.


    Mission-specific reporting is likely to be required prior to each launch, however operators should not need to apply for a new licence for each subsequent launch. Successive launches will be managed through monitoring requirements set out by the CAA.


    For orbital licensing, all UK owned/operated satellites must receive a licence under the SIA/OSA prior to launch. All non-UK owned/operated satellites that are launched from the UK must undergo checks prior to launch (mission specific monitoring). The nature of orbital missions is evolving and new mission types may require extra assessment, for example:

    • In-orbit servicing 
    • Constellations
    • Debris removal