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Launch and return licences are granted under the Space Industry Act 2018 (SIA).

A launch operator licence allows a person or organisation to undertake space activities involving a launch vehicle, including:

  • vertically launched vehicles from a spaceport
  • air-launched vehicles from a carrier aircraft
  • suborbital spaceplanes
  • balloons that can reach the stratosphere carrying crew or passengers

A return operator licence allows a person or organisation to operate a launch vehicle launched from outside the United Kingdom that will return from space and land in the United Kingdom or its territorial waters.

How do I apply?

We encourage you to speak to us before you apply. You can book a pre-application meeting to discuss your proposed mission and  timescales. During pre-application we can advise on the detail of the SIA and discuss the requirements you need to fulfil as part of your application. We also offer workshops to look at the requirements of a safety case and assessment of environmental effects in more detail.

You should read the guidance for launch operator and return operator licence applicants and licensees and applying for a licence under the space industry act 2018

To apply please complete our online application form

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How much does it cost?

There is no charge for a launch and/or return licence.

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What do I need to send with my application?

As part of your application, you will need to provide:

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What else do I need to know?

In addition to safety and environment we assess your application against five other legislative tests

  • international obligations
  • national security
  • national interest
  • financial resources
  • fit and proper persons

Information on the details you will need to provide to enable us to assess your application against these tests is set out in the Regulator's Licensing Rules (CAP 2221).

You can find even more information on our guidance and resources page.

Airspace change

If your mission might affect other airspace users you may to need to apply for a permanent airspace change, temporary restriction or Temporary Danger Area.

You should be aware that it could take longer to successfully apply for an airspace change or restriction than for the space licence itself.

The process to apply for an airspace change is managed by the CAA’s Airspace Regulation Team and is set out in more detail in CAP1616 Airspace change guidance.

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What happens next?

  • You will be assigned a case manager who will be your main point of contact through the assessment and be with you every step of the way.
  • We complete an initial screen of your application documents to make sure you have provided everything we need to carry out our assessment.
  • When we have all the documents, we need we will assess your application in detail. When we have further questions for you, our regulatory ‘clock’ will stop on the assessment until you provide the information required for us to continue.
  • Any licence we grant will include conditions with which you must comply. To show compliance, you may need to send us information for example, details of any tests or rehearsals you conduct. We may also choose to carry out inspections of your sites.
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How long is it valid for?

Your licence will not expire but can be revoked, varied or suspended by the CAA.

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