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The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has launched a consultation for the public and businesses to have their say on the assessment of environmental effects made by both Virgin Orbit and Spaceport Cornwall ahead of the proposed launch in Newquay.

To launch, Spaceport Cornwall must have a spaceport operator licence and Virgin Orbit must be issued a launch operator licence by the Civil Aviation Authority.

As part of their licence applications, the organisations have submitted an Assessment of Environmental Effects for public consultation. The assessment gives the organisations the opportunity to show they have considered all environmental effects and demonstrate measures they will take to avoid, mitigate, or offset any significant risks.

The consultation marks a milestone in the Civil Aviation Authority’s work to enable new space activities to operate from within the UK.

The Civil Aviation Authority will now consider the Assessment of Environmental Effects and the responses to the consultation as part of the licence application process.

Virgin Orbit must also obtain a marine licence from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), which includes another public consultation that is currently running in conjunction with the Civil Aviation Authority.

If the licence applications are successful, it brings the UK one step closer to its first ever space launch from UK soil.

Tim Johnson, Policy Director for the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said:

“This is the first time the Civil Aviation Authority has consulted on an organisation’s environmental assessment around a space launch.

“As the UK’s space regulator, it’s important we review environmental effects before issuing licences, and we are working closely with the Marine Management Organisation to make sure Newquay residents and businesses’ voices are heard before making any final decisions.”

Trudi Wakelin, Director of Licensing, Marine Planning and Global Marine at the Marine Management Organisation added:

“When determining whether a marine licence is issued, MMO consults with primary advisers, interested parties and members of the public. The consultation covers navigational and environmental responses and allows MMO to consider views and feedback to assist in determining a licence application.

“We encourage everyone to take the opportunity to contribute to the consultation and help MMO with its ambition to protect our seas”

Melissa Thorpe, Head of Spaceport Cornwall said:

“We are thrilled to be taking the next step in our licence process. We started this project with the aim of changing the conversations around the impact of the space industry - promoting ownership and action.

“This is just the beginning and we hope to set the bar for responsible launch in the UK.”

The Assessment of Environmental Effects consultation can be found here.

The MMO Marine Licence consultation can be found on the MMO Public Register using application reference MLA/2022/00134.