UK CAA grants SaxaVord spaceport licence, UK’s first vertical launch facility

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has issued SaxaVord Spaceport on the north coast of the Shetland Islands a licence for vertical rocket launches from 2024, following rigorous safety, security, and environmental assessment by the UK’s space regulator.

SaxaVord has been assessed by the space regulator to verify that appropriate safety, security, and environmental criteria are met to operate a spaceport, and that it has the suitable infrastructure, equipment, and services to accommodate vertical space launches.

According to a press release, there are a number of launch operators from around the world currently developing rockets to launch from SaxaVord who are currently at various stages of the assessment process with the Civil Aviation Authority.

The licence permits SaxaVord to host up to 30 launches a year, allowing the spaceport to grow as the UK space sector continues to expand.

SaxaVord will be subject to an ongoing monitoring programme by the UK Civil Aviation Authority to ensure safety is maintained and the terms of its licence are not breached.

This latest licence is the 352nd space activity approved by the UK Civil Aviation Authority since becoming the UK’s space regulator in July 2021. The regulator now monitors more than 750 different satellites, has licensed two spaceports, a launch from Cornwall, and the OneWeb constellation which is currently the second biggest satellite constellation in orbit.

The licence also follows last week’s announcement of GBP3.4 million UK Space Agency funding for HyImpulse UK, a Shetland based launch company to undertake their Hybrid Propulsion Test Programme ahead of the proposed launch of their launch vehicle, named SL1, from SaxaVord Spaceport in Shetland.

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