Cornwall Airport Newquay is out in the lead of the UK’s orbital space race. Alongside Spaceport Cornwall it received the UK’s first ever spaceport licence on 16 November.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) issued the licence following consent from Transport Secretary Mark Harper, underlining his agreement with the licensing decisions made by the UK CAA. The airport and Spaceport Cornwall have demonstrated to the regulator that it meets the appropriate safety, security, environment and other aspects to operate a UK spaceport. The approval also means Spaceport Cornwall has the infrastructure, equipment and services for horizontal space launches.

Commenting on the airport’s role in helping the UK progress that bit further to its first orbital space launch, Sam O’Dwyer, Managing Director, Cornwall Airport Newquay said: “We are incredibly proud to be involved in this innovative project to enable space launch from Cornwall Airport Newquay with Spaceport Cornwall and Virgin Orbit. The team effort that has gone into developing a spaceport facility to deliver safe and secure space operations for the UK’s first ever space launch has been simply inspiring.”

O’Dwyer was joined by Mel Thorpe, Head of Spaceport Cornwall, who added: “To be the first Spaceport in the UK with a licence to operate is a historic moment. The regulatory environment created by the CAA ensures that UK launch will set the global bat in terms of responsibility and transparency.

“Cornwall is now ready to open up the use of Space for Good and support the UK industry in harnessing the power of space to benefit life on Earth.”

This latest licence for Cornwall adds to nearly 150 licences already approved by the UK CAA since becoming the UK’s space regulator in July 2021.  Richard Moriaty, Chief Executive of the UK CAA described the licence for Cornwall as a “historic moment,” and a “major milestone to enable [the UK] to become a leading launch nation.”

He also noted: “When we became the space regulator, we committed to delivering in an open, effective and proportionate way, with public safety at its heart. Our work does not stop with this licence decision as we continue to assess other licence applications and oversee the effectiveness of licenced activities, all enabling the UK’s space sector to grow safely and securely.”

The growing space industry is estimated to be worth £16.5 billion. It supports 47,000 jobs, with 2,500 apprentices opening the sector to even more people.

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