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An orbital operator licence allows a person or organisation to:

  • procure the launch of a space object into orbit.
  • operate a space object in orbit.
  • conduct other activity in outer space.

This licence covers any activity in outer space and is not limited to activities in Earth’s orbit.

If you are intending to carry out activities from within the UK, you will need to apply under the Space Industry Act 2018 (SIA).

If you are intending to carry out activities from outside the UK, you will need to apply under the Outer Space Act 1986 (OSA).

If you are a Crown Dependency or Overseas Territory intending to carry out space activities, please contact us.

How do I apply?

We encourage you to speak to us before you apply to discuss your planned mission. Please complete our pre-application form, which we will review before inviting you to a meeting; this will help us to understand your proposed mission and timescales. We can also discuss the requirements you need to fulfil as part of your application.  

You should read the guidance for orbital operator licence applicants and licensees carefully before submitting your application. Depending where your planned activity will be carried out, you should also read ‘OSA Guidance for Applicants’ and/or ‘SIA Guidance for Applicants’ .

To apply please complete our online application form

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How much does it cost?

£6,500 is the fee for each application. This is non-refundable and non-transferrable.

Payment of an application fee does not guarantee that a licence will be granted.

Where separate entities are responsible for the operation of a satellite and the procurement of a launch of a satellite (and both activities fall under the SIA or the OSA), each entity will require a licence, and each will be charged a separate application fee.

You can find more information in the CAA scheme of charges.

If you are applying for multiple, identical licences you may qualify for lower fees through the Government’s refund scheme.

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What do I need to send with my application?

You will also need to complete our technical question set, radio frequency/spectrum question set and national security question set (this is available to download in the portal).

Please email your answers to commercialspaceflight@caa.co.uk.

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What else do I need to know?

To grant a licence we need to be satisfied that you have met six legislative tests:

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

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).

For any application you will be expected to demonstrate how you will work to ensure your operations are safe and that risks are as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP).

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How long will it take for my application to be assessed?

Once we receive your application, it will take at least 6 months to assess.

If your mission is novel or complex, for example close proximity operations or in orbit manufacturing, it may take at least 12 months.

You can confirm if your mission is considered novel or complex in pre-application.

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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?

The duration of a licence granted under the SIA or OSA, is mission dependent and will be set out in the licence.

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