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First UK spaceport wins license as Branson plans rocket launch

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The UK issued its first-ever spaceport license to a launch hub in southwest England, paving the way for a mission by billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit Holdings later this month.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority issued a license for Spaceport Cornwall, approving its infrastructure, equipment and services after a sign off from Transport Secretary Mark Harper, according to a statement Wednesday. The country’s space industry is estimated to be worth £16.5 billion and support 47 000 jobs, the regulatory body said.

The CAA said it was in advanced stages with Virgin Orbit on its own application for a license. The spaceport will offer horizontal launches, in which a rocket is carried aloft under the wing of an aircraft before blasting away at altitude.

The authority, which took over UK space regulation after the country’s split from the European Union, is also progressing applications from other would-be spaceports, including the proposed SaxaVord launch site in Scotland.

© 2022 Bloomberg

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