There are three stages in the licensing process, Engage, Application and Monitor. There are steps within each stage and each stage must be completed before moving to the next, though the amount of work required by CAA and the timescales within which it should be completed will depend upon the nature of the licence application.
Stage 1 Engage
Although not a legal requirement, we strongly encourage potential applicants to meet with us before an application is submitted. These meetings will establish a shared understanding of your spaceflight ambitions including the potential scope of the licence and potential timescales. It is also an opportunity for you to confirm your understanding of the licensing process and the requirements you will need to fulfil.
It is important to note that a pre-application meeting does not pre-empt any licensing decision.
Stage 2 Application
To apply for a licence, please see key licence requirements.
Once we have received your licence application our team will carry out an initial review to confirm your application form is complete and that any additional information required has been included.
If your application is not complete, we will contact you to request the missing information. Your application will be paused until we receive your information.
When your application is complete, it will progress to Assessment.
We will carry out a thorough assessment of the material you have submitted. The nature of the assessment will depend on the type of licence you have applied for.
Additional checks will be carried out to verify the accuracy of declarations made in your application and a review of supporting documentation (safety case, security programme, assessment of environmental effects) against specified assessment criteria will also be completed. In addition, we may need to carry out inspections as part of our assessment.
The CAA can request the production of documents and records and interview employees and other officers as well as carrying out inspections of sites, the launch vehicle or equipment as we deem necessary. Our requests for further information will be made on the basis that the information is either readily available or can be provided by you.
If there are serious deficiencies in your application that you have not addressed, then your application will be refused. If your application meets the assessment criteria, we will recommend that a licence is granted.
In granting a licence for your spaceflight activities, subject to licence conditions, we must be satisfied that:
- National security is not impaired
- International obligations are met
- The activity is not contrary to national interest
- All financial and technical resources are in place
- Eligibility criteria are met and that fit and proper persons assessments are met
In addition, depending on the licence type, we must also be:
- Satisfied that safety risks are as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP), and if a launch vehicle has a human occupant, that your risk assessment meets the specified requirements
- Satisfied with your draft security programme and cyber security strategy
- That you have completed an assessment of environmental effects (AEE)
If we refuse your licence application, we will write to you to explain our reasons for refusal.
Statutory Consultation (Licence Conditions)
The CAA can grant a licence, subject to statutory consultation on the licence conditions and the consent of the Secretary of State. Under section 13(6) of the Space Industry Act 2018 we must consult on the proposed licence conditions with the following:
- Secretary of State
- Health & Safety Executive
- Office of Nuclear Regulator
- Defence Safety Authority
- other appropriate persons if the proposed licence gives rise to any issues regarding trade controls or national security.
In addition to this statutory consultation we may also choose to consult with the relevant local planning authority, environmental regulators and where appropriate, devolved Governments.
Statutory consultees will be provided with copies of the draft licence and licence conditions, including the reasons for them, and asked to provide comments. We will seek to resolve any issues by amending the licence conditions where appropriate. Following this consultation, we may change the draft conditions of your licence, remove conditions or add new conditions.
Grant of a Licence (Secretary of State consent)
A submission will be sent to the Secretary of State seeking consent to grant a licence, which includes:
- a copy of the licence
- details of any licence terms and conditions and the reasons for them
- any relevant supporting documentation
Once the Secretary of State has given their consent, we will notify you in writing and include:
- a copy of the licence
- details of any licence terms and conditions
- details of the ongoing monitoring and oversight programme
If the Secretary of State does not give consent, we will notify you in writing setting out the reasons for this decision.
Stage 3 Monitor
Monitoring, oversight and enforcement
All licences will be subject to periodic checks and inspections, conducted in line with the oversight plan generated during the application process. This oversight plan must be kept up to date for the duration of your licence. We may take enforcement action, based on the results of our monitoring/oversight activities, if necessary.
For all missions, we will check key activities during mission planning, launch and post launch, based on information submitted by the licensees. This check phase could also include orbital health or checks on the positions of orbital objects. These checks may be supplemented by inspections and (where appropriate) independent analysis of any technical reports. Where a licence application is tied to a specific mission the necessary checks for mission planning may be carried out as part of our assessment of your application.
Where there is evidence of non-compliance we will consider enforcement and take appropriate action. We also have the power to appoint inspectors to act on our behalf. An inspector can issue a notice to the licensee if they believe that a licensee has contravened, is contravening, or is conducting an activity that is likely to contravene licence conditions or provisions of the Act or a regulation made under the Act. In some instances, enforcement action may result in a licence being suspended or revoked.
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