Virgin Orbit has been granted a licence to launch satellites from Spaceport Cornwall, paving the way for the first launch from British soil.
The licence was awarded by the UK Civil Aviation Authority, following permission from the transport secretary Mark Harper.
“Receiving Virgin Orbit’s range and launch licences takes us one step closer to the first satellite launch take-off from UK soil,” said Dan Hart, chief executive of Virgin Orbit.
“This is a major milestone for the CAA and represents the successful completion of an enormous effort, which has included the construction of new regulations, new processes and new teams.”
Alongside the launch licence, Virgin Orbit was issued a range licence that lets it control services for spaceflight activities.
Spaceport Cornwall’s maiden voyage was scheduled to take place this month but was delayed due to Virgin needing to carry out “additional technical work”.
The spaceport only received its launch licence in November, permitting it to conduct horizontal space launches.
Ian Annett, deputy chief executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “Establishing orbital launch capabilities in the UK is already bringing investment and jobs into Cornwall and other communities across the UK, and inspiring a new generation to join our growing space sector.”
An altered Boeing 747 called “Cosmic Girl” will carry Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket and be the first satellite launch to take place in the UK.
Growth in the UK’s space industry has accelerated this year, with a spaceport in Sutherland, Scotland, preparing for lanches next year.