We’re here to help you: Bureaucrats at the United Kingdom’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) have refused to issue Virgin Orbit a launch permit in time for its proposed December 14, 2022 launch date, and have thus forced the company to stand down.
Dan Hart, Virgin Orbit chief executive, said the Civil Aviation Authority’s refusal to give the company an operating licence meant the launch would be delayed again. Britain’s first ever space mission was scheduled to take place on the night of December 14, Virgin Orbit announced yesterday.
But Virgin Orbit was forced to row back on its plans within hours. The company will now “retarget launch for the coming weeks”.
The refusal does not mean that the launch will never happen, only that the CAA is not going to hurry its approval for Richard Branson. This delay is thus crushing this company, as it has been unable to launch other customers while this launch is pending, and therefore has been unable to earn any additional revenue.
That the CAA has been working on this permit for more than half a year and still cannot issue, however, does not bode well for future UK rocket launches. Virgin Orbit launches from a runway, using a 747, and has done so successfully four times already. If the CAA cannot figure out how to okay it to launch after doing six months of paperwork, how is it going to okay launches for regular rockets from the two Scotland launchpads now under construction? Based on this situation, it will take forever to get launches off, and thus the CAA is likely going to force satellite customers top migrate to other spaceports outside the UK.
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