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Orbex applies for licence to enable commercial rockets to be launched from Space Hub Sutherland in north Highlands

By Caroline McMorran

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A space aviation firm has taken a further step towards its aim of launching commercial rockets from Space Hub Sutherland.

Orbex, which is expected to be the principal user of the Sutherland spaceport, has submitted its application to the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for a launch licence.

An artist's impression of Space Hub Sutherland. Picture: Ramboll UK
An artist's impression of Space Hub Sutherland. Picture: Ramboll UK

The firm said it was the latest stage on its roadmap to beginning commercial space launches from the UK.

Orbex has already successfully completed pre-application meetings with the CAA, the UK’s new space regulator.

It has now progressed to the application stage, becoming one of the first UK launch operators to do so.

Orbex chief executive Chris Larmour said: “This licence application is another big step forward for Orbex, and is one of several tracks running in parallel that will enable commercial launch operations to commence from Sutherland.

“The application process is rigorous and detailed, with a strong focus on safety. It has taken a large team more than two years to complete the investigations and analysis required to submit the license application today.

“We are looking forward to working with the Civil Aviation Authority over the coming months as they assess our application.”

The CAA launch licence ensures that operators meet the regulatory requirements set by the UK’s Space Industry Act 2018 (SIA) and Space Industry Regulations 2021 (SIR).

The legislation was recently introduced by the UK government to support its national space strategy.

Space Hub Sutherland, is the world’s first carbon neutral spaceport and the only spaceport in the UK to have received full planning permission. Construction of the spaceport is due to begin later this year.

Meanwhile, the Orbex ‘Prime’ rocket is soon to be tested on the Orbex LP1 launch platform at a facility in Kinloss, close to the Orbex headquarters in Forres, where full ‘dress rehearsals’ of launch procedures will take place.

Prime is a micro-launcher designed to transport small satellites weighing around 150kg to low Earth orbit.

Orbex claim it will be the world’s most environmentally friendly space rocket with a carbon footprint up to 96 per cent lower than comparable space launch programmes.

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