Public Consultation on the Assessment of Environmental Effects: Virgin Orbit and Spaceport Cornwall

Closes 19 Aug 2022

Opened 22 Jul 2022

Overview

To carry out spaceflight activity in the UK spaceport and launch operators must be licensed by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

As part of their licence application, spaceport and launch operators are required to submit an Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE). The purpose of the AEE is to ensure applicants have adequately considered any potential environmental effects of their intended activities and, if necessary have taken steps to avoid, mitigate or offset the risks and their potential effects.

Virgin Orbit are applying for a launch operator licence. Spaceport Cornwall are applying for a spaceport licence. This consultation sets out the joint AEE from Virgin Orbit and Spaceport Cornwall.

The proposals are for Virgin Orbit to undertake two horizontal launches per year from Spaceport Cornwall (at Cornwall Airport Newquay) until 2030. The launch system, assessed for the purposes of the AEE, consists of a modified Boeing 747 aircraft, carrying an air launched two stage rocket under its wing. The carrier aircraft will travel to an altitude of approximately 35,000 feet where the rocket is released, its engine fired, and it then ascends to the desired orbit where the satellite payload is released. The trajectory begins with the release of the rocket west of the UK and southwest of Ireland and continues south-southwest over the Atlantic Ocean.

Spaceport Cornwall are applying to operate as a spaceport to facilitate Virgin Orbit’s launch proposals. 

For its proposed launch from Newquay Virgin Orbit has applied for a marine licence from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) that is also open for public consultation. If you wish to comment on the marine licence, please click here and enter case reference MLA/2022/00134, this will be found in the public representation section. 

For spaceport and launch operator licences the CAA must take into account the applicant’s assessments and the proposed measures to mitigate any significant environmental effects before a recommendation for approval can be granted.

More information on the CAA’s approach to public consultation can be found by reading the following guidance document (CAP2352).

Views invited

We encourage you to share any feedback on the AEE, including any potential effects on you and your local environment.

In your comments, please consider the following: 

  • the identified environmental effects and the assessment of these effects
  • if proposed mitigation methods are appropriate or where further mitigations may be required
  • any gaps, improvements, or corrections to the AEE.

We will consider comments received when deciding whether to grant the licence and any relevant licence conditions. Following the outcome of our assessment, we will publish information on our final decisions and associated reasoning related to the AEE.

Give us your views

Audiences

  • Spaceflight

Interests

  • Spaceflight