UK's first space launch could be within next month

Virgin Orbit could yet launch before the year ends. Credit: PA

The UKs first space launch could still happen this year but, with at least four licences outstanding, ITV News can reveal officials have been told it may be 2023 before Virgin Orbit launches.

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) told ITV News they are “working on the basis of Virgin Orbit activity taking place sometime between 12th December and 6th January 2023.”

The IAA have yet to give approval for the flight to operate in their airspace, although they say the “permit application is at a mature stage, and is progressing consistent with the launch timetable.”

The planned flight from Newquay Airport will head west into the Atlantic from where it will launch a rocket, from under the wing of a 747 aircraft, with its payload of satellites.

Virgin Orbit have planned for “the proposed trajectory of the LauncherOne rocket [to] begin at a drop point southwest of Ireland [continuing] south-southwest over the Atlantic Ocean west of France, Spain, and Portugal."

The flight will use the airspace of four nations. Regulatory approval is taking time.

The Civil Aviation Authority in the UK told ITV News “the remaining licences from the CAA that Virgin Orbit require are a launch operator licence, a range control licence and the satellites”.

Virgin Orbit told ITV News: “Our team in Cornwall continues to move forward with integrated operations as we work toward a planned launch in December, and we are actively coordinating launch windows with all stakeholders.

"In parallel, we are working with the regulatory community to enable license approvals."

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