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UK – EU Transition, and UK Civil Aviation Regulations

To access current UK civil aviation regulations, including AMC and GM, CAA regulatory documents, please use this link to UK Regulation. Please note, if you use information and guidance under the Headings below, the references to EU regulations or EU websites in our guidance will not be an accurate information or description of your obligations under UK law. These pages are undergoing reviews and updates.

The Space Industry Act 2018 (SIA) and Space Industry Regulations 2021 (SIR) allow for the licensing and regulation of a wide range of commercial spaceflight (launch vehicle) activities, including traditional vertically launched vehicles, air-launched vehicles from a carrier aircraft, and suborbital spaceplanes and balloons. The Act and the Regulations set out general requirements for all licence holders and contain specific requirements for launch operations.

To carry out these activities, you must apply to the CAA for a launch operator licence. We recommend you read CAP2213 before making your application.

If you wish to return a launch vehicle launched from the UK or the UK’s territorial waters to land in the UK, you can apply for launch operator licence, you do not need to apply for a separate return operator licence. A launch operator licence may be granted for one launch or a series of launches.

The information you must provide when applying for a launch operator licence is set out in Table A and Table B of the Regulator’s Licensing Rules.

The basic prerequisites for obtaining a launch operator licence include the CAA being satisfied that:

  • the applicant meets criteria regarding eligibility, financial and technical resources and is otherwise a fit and proper person
  • the licensed activity will not impair the national security of the UK, is consistent with the UK’s international obligations and is not contrary to the national interest
  • the applicant has assigned persons to certain prescribed roles and if required by regulation, has trained and qualified certain persons in their roles or capacities.
  • the applicant has demonstrated that the risks of the launch activity are as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP) and that the residual risk is acceptable. This entails the applicant submitting a safety case which meet the requirements of SIR Regulation 29 and Schedule 1
  • the applicant has produced a safety operation’s manual

Other requirements at the application stage for a launch operator licence include:

  • the location from which the proposed launch activities are to take place
  • an assessment of the environmental effects (AEE) of the launch activity
  • a draft security programme and a cyber security strategy for the proposed operation, based on a security risk assessment,
  • supplying certified copies of insurance and indemnity arrangements or, if not available at the time the application is submitted, evidence of engagement with insurers and/or other parties on insurance and indemnities and proposals for such arrangements
  • information about the radio frequencies to be used and any agent(s) to be used by the applicant
  • if human spaceflight activities are proposed, a risk assessment of the risks posed to the persons onboard the launch vehicle

You also need to seek the regulator’s approval of

  • the individual who is to be the training manager required by SIR Regulation 61 and
  • the relevant sections of the training manual required by SIR Regulation 66

This application can be made alongside your licence application, during the assessment of that application or once a licence has been granted, however, both the training manager and manual must be approved by the regulator before any licensed activity is carried out. We recommend you provide this information as soon as possible to ensure the assessment of these can be carried out well in advance of any planned activities.

Once you have submitted your application to us, we will meet and liaise with you as necessary, request additional information and carry out visits and inspections as required to determine whether a licence can be granted. If it is determined that a licence can be granted, and the Secretary of State has given his consent, we will inform you and send a copy of your licence. Your licence will normally contain various conditions, including an obligation to submit information for the UK register of launches that have taken place from the UK and also reporting obligations on various matters related to future launch vehicle payloads.

Once licensed, you must meet ongoing safety requirements, such as having a Safety Management System in place. While you may not have fully developed these at point of application, we recommend you familiarise yourself with these as soon as possible.

While your launch operator licence remains valid, you must keep your safety case up to date, submit mandatory occurrence reports when needed and notify us of any material changes which may impact how you carry out licensed activities (such as changes to person carrying out prescribed roles, financial difficulties, etc).

You must also cooperate with our ongoing monitoring and oversight activity, including site visits and attendance at various pre and post launch reviews.

In addition to the licence you need to carry out spaceflight activities, you may also need to apply for an airspace change. The integration of a launch into the airspace structure is achieved through the CAA’s airspace change process, known as CAP1616. This process is run by the CAA’s Airspace Regulation department and a completely separate team to the UK Space Regulator.

The CAP1616 process can be used to create a temporary change to cover a one-off event, or to create a permanent change - to enable the establishment of a spaceport, for example.

Permanent airspace changes can take longer than the licensing of spaceflight activities and it is your responsibility to discuss your proposals and apply for change with the airspace team. Further information and details of how to apply for an airspace change can be found on our Airspace Change page

Applying for a licence under the Space Industry Act 2018

Guidance on duties for all licensee under the Space Industry Act 2018

Guidance for launch and return operator licence applicants and licensees

Guidance for ALARP

Licensing statements

For further guidance relevant to launch or return licence, including Liabilities and Insurance and Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE) – please go to the guidance & resources section

Full information on the application form

Apply for a launch or return licence

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