UK launches consultation on Virgin Orbit launch

TAMPA, Florida — The UK announced a public consultation on 22 July to assess the environmental impact of the country’s first space launch, as part of the licensing process to release the Virgin Orbit mission this year.

The UK’s space regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), is seeking comment on an environmental assessment from Virgin Orbit and Spaceport Cornwall, a consortium of government and industry that provides the intended launch site for the mission.

The assessment, which is required to secure CAA operating permits, covers the steps Virgin Orbit and Spaceport Cornwall are taking to minimize the environmental impact of using Newquay Cornwall Airport in southwest England as a takeoff and landing for Virgin Orbit aircraft. launch system.

Virgin Orbit has proposed to conduct two horizontal launches a year from Spaceport Cornwall by 2030, the CAA said.

Its LauncherOne air launch system uses a modified Boeing 747 aircraft that carries a two-stage rocket under its wing and has performed five US orbital missions to date.

the fifth and fourth successful mission in a row placed a set of payloads for the US Space Force on 2 July.

O CAA consultation closes on August 22nd.

Virgin Orbit also needs a license from the UK’s Marine Management Organization (MMO), which includes another public consultation due to close on August 19.

LauncherOne was programmed to fly as soon as september of Spaceport Cornwall, which is operated by a consortium that includes Virgin Orbit, the UK Space Agency, Goonhilly Earth Station and the Cornwall Council unitary authority.

“This is the first time the Civil Aviation Authority has consulted an organization’s environmental assessment around a space launch,” CAA policy director Tim Johnson said in a statement.

“As the UK space regulator it is important that we analyze the environmental effects before issuing permits and we are working closely with the Marine Management Organization to ensure the voices of Newquay residents and businesses are heard before any final decisions are made. ”

Payloads due to fly on Virgin Orbit’s first UK mission include two Prometheus 2 cubesats carrying Pathfinder experiments to support the UK’s remote sensing constellation Minerva.

The mission will also carry a positioning, navigation and timing satellite for the RHEA Group and a joint experiment developed by the US Naval Research Laboratory and the UK Defense Science and Technology Laboratory to study changes in Earth’s upper atmosphere.

In other parts of the UK, companies racing to drive the first vertical launch orbit from British soil.

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