The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has issued a marine licence to the Virgin Orbit satellite launch project.



Virgin Orbit proposes to conduct a maximum of one launch in 2022 and approximately two launches per year over the next 8 years (January 2023-December 2030) from its base in Cornwall.

The consultation on the marine licence application took place over the summer. The licence issued by the MMO covers the 2022 launch, the first of its kind in the UK. As there is material to be deposited into the sea that will be loaded in the UK, the activity requires a marine licence from MMO, as required by The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.

The decision is a result of close collaboration between MMO and the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and follows public consultations which were carried out earlier this year.

Trudi Wakelin, Director of Licensing, Marine Planning and Global Marine at the Marine Management Organisation said: “As the independent marine manager and regulator for England’s seas, it’s important that we review any potential environmental impacts before issuing marine licences.

On this occasion, we have worked with primary advisers, interested parties and members of the public during the consultation period to ensure any potential impacts were considered and appropriately assessed. This enabled MMO to issue the marine licence to the Virgin Orbit project, in preparation for their planned launch later this year.”

Ahead of the first launch from UK soil, “Cosmic Girl” Virgin Orbit’s converted Boeing 747 launch vehicle arrived earlier in October 2022 at Spaceport Cornwall, Cornwall Airport Newquay. Cosmic Girl will carry seven payloads into Lower Earth Orbit from Cornwall via the LauncherOne rocket on the “Start Me Up” mission; Virgin Orbit’s first international launch.

The missions of these satellites span a wide range of activities aimed at improving life on planet Earth, including reducing the environmental impact of production, preventing illegal trafficking, smuggling, and terrorism; and a host of national security functions.

Following the first round of now complete wet dress rehearsals in the US, the launch is on track for November. Start Me Up is led by a joint mission between the U.S. and U.K. governments, launched by Virgin Orbit, the United Kingdom Space Agency (UKSA), UK Space Command, and Spaceport Cornwall.

Start Me Up will be a launch of many firsts: the first orbital launch ever from the United Kingdom; the first international launch for Virgin Orbit, and the first commercial launch from Western Europe.

The news release from the MMO can be read here and copies of the Marine Licence application and associated information may be viewed online in the MMO public register here.

Further information on the launches proposed by Virgin Orbit can be read here.

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