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Aviation regulator issues 343 licences to UK space companies

space licences
Image credit: Civil Aviation Authority

The aviation regulator has issued 343 licences to UK space companies since 2021, with 18 being awarded last week in a sign of the sector’s growth.

There are also another 25 applications that the regulator is sifting through from “aspiring” satellite operators, launch operators and satellite firms.

Three UK spaceports are currently among the 20 likely applicants to next receive a space licence.

“We are working constantly with industry to review and improve our processes to make sure the UK space sector is safe, sustainable, and successful,” said Rob Bishton, joint-interim chief executive of the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

The Civil Aviation Authority said it is currently overseeing at least 750 UK satellites in orbit.

It is likely the regulator will exceed 350 space licences in the next week.

“The UK space sector is thriving, and Scotland is poised to be right at the heart of the UK’s future space ambitions,” said Bishton. “Scottish engineers and scientists will help drive the technology and innovation needed to help put the UK on the map in the burgeoning space sector.”

The first spaceport to receive a launch licence was Spaceport Cornwall in November in preparation for the UK’s first satellite launch from Virgin Orbit. However, that launch was ultimately unsuccessful and Virgin Orbit has since filed for bankruptcy.

Spaceport Cornwall for now is the only site with a launch licence. Further spaceports are underway including one in Sutherland, Scotland and SaxaVord Spaceport in the Shetland Islands.

Information on the UK’s space licences was released in conjunction with a visit by the Civil Aviation Authority to the Scottish rocket company Skyrora.

Data published yesterday found that the UK is leading the race for space investment in Europe, accounting for 17% of the sector’s global funding.