UK government to invest £10 million in Saxavord spaceport

Proposed spaceports surrounding Norwegian Sea
Proposed spaceports surrounding Norwegian Sea.

The government of the United Kingdom announced yesterday that it will directly invest £10 million in the Saxavord spaceport being built on one of the Shetland Islands, as shown on the map to the right.

Coming in addition to around £40 million of private investment, the government funding will allow SaxaVord to accelerate its capital works programme to ensure it is ready to support the first orbital launch.

That capital works program was forced to shut down last year when red tape at the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) delayed the licensing of Saxavord. It could be this grant has been issued partly to repay the losses the spaceport company experienced due to those bureaucratic delays. The timing kind of reinforces this speculation, as only yesterday Saxavord got its spaceport license approved, though other approvals remain pending.

All this news suggests strongly that the first test flight at Saxavord by the German rocket startup Rocket Factory Augsburg will occur later this year, as promised.

Meanwhile, the other spaceport in Sutherland must be wondering if it can get similar government aid, or if the government is now playing favorites.

Is the Saxavord spaceport in the UK about to finally get approved for launches?

Proposed spaceports surrounding Norwegian Sea
Proposed spaceports surrounding Norwegian Sea.

According to the head of the Saxavord spaceport in the UK, it is finally poised to get all the necessary approvals from the government of the United Kingdom that will allow the first launches before the end of this year.

Following on from the CAA licence being granted just before Christmas, management at SaxaVord Spaceport is confident it will receive its ‘range licence’ later this month to finally become a “fully-fledged spaceport”. This second licence, also issued by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), allows rockets launched from SaxaVord to use the airspace.

Sounds great, eh? Except that the spaceport is still waiting approval from a local commission of its plan for allowing spectators to watch launches. In addition, no launch license has yet been issued to any rocket company. The German company Rocket Factory Augsburg (RFA) is planning to take over one specific launchpad at Saxaford where it hopes to do as many as ten launches per year, with the first test launch later this year. The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has not yet issued that license.

Another rocket startup, ABL, is also waiting CAA approvals. Its first test launch (which failed in January 2023) was conducted in Alaska, with a second launch planned there in the next month or so. If successful the company hopes to launch regularly from Saxaford, assuming the CAA gives it approval.

Saxaford submitted its license applications to the CAA in November 2022, with the hope launches could begin in 2023. It took the CAA however more than a year to issue the spaceport license, and it still has not issued the range license, nor has it issued RFA any launch licenses yet. For these companies to prosper the government approval process has got to be streamlined.

UK spaceports to UK government: There’s too much red-tape!

Proposed spaceports surrounding Norwegian Sea
Proposed spaceports surrounding Norwegian Sea.

At a hearing this week before the Scottish Affairs Committee of the United Kingdom’s parliement, the heads of the two spaceports being built in Scotland demanded that a single senior minister be assigned to handle all regulation for space launches, because the present system involves too many different agencies from too many different UK governments.

The result has been endless delays, and no launches.

“For me, there’s almost too many cooks involved,” [according to Scott Hammond, deputy CEO of SaxaVord Spaceport.] “I think what we need to look at is having a senior politician directly responsible for space and space launch and I would suggest that at cabinet level.” Despite the UK Government space portfolio, he said it is still “difficult to know who’s actually running launch in the UK”.

He gave the example of seeking permissions from Scottish Government’s marine directorate, something he said was taking six months rather than 14 weeks as promised.

The CEO of the company Orbex, which has a fifty-year lease to launch from the other spaceport in Sutherland, admitted that the spaceport “had appeared to be in a ‘better place’ in 2018 but acknowledged circumstances had changed since then.” In other words, regulation was now threatening the company’s operations at Sutherland, and it is beginning to look elsewhere for future launches.

Saxaford had hoped to do its first launch this year, but now is looking to the summer, all because of the long delays experienced in getting government approvals.

The map shows other space ports being developed in Europe. These, as well as new spaceports elsewhere, might end up getting all of this UK business because of the continuing red tape issues in Great Britain.

UK finally gives Saxavord spaceport a license

Proposed spaceports surrounding Norwegian Sea
Proposed spaceports surrounding Norwegian Sea.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in the United Kingdom finally issued a spaceport license today to the Saxavord spaceport on the Shetland Islands, thirteen months after the application was submitted.

This license however does not mean that launches will take place anytime soon. First, Saxavord will have to resume construction of its facilities, which ceased earlier this year because of the CAA hadn’t issued the permit. Moreover, this license does not allow launches. As noted by the CAA:

Spaceport licences allow a person or organisation to operate a spaceport, they are granted in the UK under the Space Industry Act 2018 (SIA). For a launch to happen an operator will need to have developed and proven their technology, be operationally ready, and have a launch licence from the UK Civil Aviation Authority. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted language is especially crushing, because it literally forbids the launch of any new untested rocket. Since every single rocket so far being developed for these two spaceports is new and untested, none will be allowed to launch unless they move operations elsewhere. This requirement explains for example why the startup ABL shifted its next launch from the Sutherland spaceport — it had hoped to launch this year — to Kodiak, Alaska. Orbex will have even more problems, as it has signed a fifty year lease to launch its new Prime rocket from Sutherland, with its rocket factory close by. If it can’t test fly Prime from Sutherland the company will be very badly hampered.

Even if these companies eventually get launch licenses for their untried rockets, expect such approvals to take a very long time, based on the CAA’s past and present history. It took the CAA almost a year to approve Virgin Orbit’s launch license, essentially bankrupting the company.

Nor are my conclusions here — which I have been stating now for more than a year — simply opinions. They have now been confirmed by a new report issued only a few days ago by the UK Space Agency, which admitted the following:
» Read more

German rocket startup signs deal with Norwegian spaceport

Map of northern European spaceports

The German rocket startup Isar Aerospace has signed a deal to provide the Andoya spaceport in the north of Norway with a new flight tracking and safety system, to be used by all launches including Isar’s own Spectrum rocket.

The purpose of the autonomous flight tracking system is to precisely and reliably keeping track of the Spectrum launch vehicle’s position, speed and direction of travel as it ascends to orbit, which is important to guarantee Andøya Spaceport’s flight safety requirements. The objective is to further evaluate the use of the system in enabling automated flight termination functionality for launches by Andøya Spaceport’s ground system, autonomously triggering an abort of the mission if ever operational parameters of the launch vehicle are out of bounds.

This announcement today illustrates the rising competition between German rocket startups and European spaceports. Yesterday the Saxavord spaceport in Scotland and another German rocket startup, HyImpulse, announced their own launch deal. Today’s announcement is the response from Andoya and Isar.

Today’s announcement also increases the pressure in the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to get its regulatory act together. Andoya is positioning itself as a good alternative to the two new British spaceports in Scotland, as shown by the red dots on the map above, should red tape in the UK slow launches there.

Saxavord spaceport gets launch deal from German rocket startup

The Saxavord spaceport, one of two being built in Scotland, has signed a launch deal from the German rocket startup Hy-Impulse, with two suborbital test launches scheduled for next year and an orbital launch targeting 2025.

HyImpulse, a launch services provider and DLR spinoff based in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, is currently gearing up for its inaugural suborbital launch early next year from Australia. It will however look to conduct two suborbital launches from SaxaVord Spaceport, located in Scotland’s Shetland Islands, from August 2024 onwards. HyImpulse has already secured an Air Navigation Order (ANO) license from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority for one launch.

These will be followed by first orbital launches from late 2025 onwards. The plan envisions rising to full commercial operations by 2030.

All this assumes that the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) can issue the launch licenses in time. After all it only six to ten months to approve those suborbital launches, and almost two years to approve the orbital launch. So far the CAA has proven unable to approve anything within even those long time frames.

Regulatory problems for Saxaford spaceport in Shetland?

In a short statement reported in the local Shetland press, the under-construction Saxaford spaceport in Scotland has apparently laid off some construction workers, claiming it has done so “because the project was so far ahead of schedule.”

The statement however also alluded to the United Kingdom’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which must issue a launch license before any launches can occur.

SaxaVord Spaceport said: “SaxaVord continues to have excellent dialogue with the authorities and is fully expecting to receiving its spaceport licence very soon from the Civil Aviation Authority. We are looking forward to hosting vertical rocket launches in the coming months.”

The application for this launch license was submitted in November 2022. It appears that the CAA still needs a year or more to approve any launch license, a slow and endless process that if not corrected will make launches from the United Kingdom completely unprofitable.

Saxaford had hoped to get its first launch off this year, by fall. It now appears that will not happen.

Rocket Factory Augsburg raises $33 million in private investment capital

The German startup Rocket Factory Augsburg revealed today that it has raised $32.9 million in private investment capital at the same time it has shifted the launch date for the first rocket launch of its RFA-1 rocket from this year into next.

That launch was scheduled to occur at the Shetland spaceport, Saxaford, and as recently as April 2023 officials there were saying that this launch would occur this year. In June however Rocket Factory signed a deal with France’s space agency to use its long abandoned launchpad in French Guiana. That same month I predicted the launch at Saxaford would not happen this year, possibly because of regulatory hurdles in the United Kingdom.

It appears those hurdles might have been part of the reason for Rocket Factory’s deal with France. It needs a place to launch, and it appears the UK’s government is not presently conducive to allowing such things to happen easily.

Viking cemetery found at new Saxavord spaceport in Scotland

Archeologists have discovered a Viking “ritual cremation cemetery” about 4,000 years old near the launch site at the new Saxavord spaceport in Scotland.

The burnt bones were found inside an arc of large granite boulders set into pits in the ground. A small platform of white quartz pebbles was also discovered which may have once been linked to a burial. Quartz is often associated with burial tombs in the prehistoric, and covered the entire outside wall of Newgrange in Ireland.

Test launches at Saxavord are expected to begin in the fall, with the first orbital launch next year. This schedule of course assumes launch licenses can be obtained from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority.

UK government reluctantly admits its space regulatory framework is a problem

According to a report issued by a committee formed by a number of members of the United Kingdom’s parliament, the regulatory licensing framework for its space launch industry is a problem that needs fixing, and in a hurry.

The report also expressed concern about the licensing delays that led to the Virgin Orbit launch being postponed. Virgin Orbit and some of its satellite customers were critical of the UK regulatory process, which was led by the Civil Aviation Authority.

But the committee concluded there was no evidence that the regulatory system contributed to the failure of the Virgin Orbit. The report did state, however, that there is “insufficient co-ordination between the large number of regulatory bodies involved in licensing launches, and this continues to place unnecessary burdens of complexity and administration on companies”.

The MPs [members of parliament] are calling on the Government to take steps to improve the licensing system of UK satellite launch.

It is amusing how these politicians speak from both sides of their mouths. First they say the regulatory system did not contribute to Virgin Orbit’s failure, but then admit the regulatory system is so complex and messy that anyone can see that it certainly did contribute to that failure. It took that system fifteen months to approve the launch, even though Virgin Orbit expected that approval to come in half that time.

Whether this MP report will force action remains unclear. As I noted earlier this week, Orbex applied for a launch license seventeen months ago for a launch it hopes to complete at the Sutherland Spaceport before the end of this year, and it is as yet unclear if any license has been issued. The UK’s two spaceports cannot compete if it is going to take one to two years for each launch license to be approved

Orbex to expand facilities in Scotland and Denmark

The British rocket startup Orbex today announced that it is expanding its factory and office space in its facilities in Scotland and Denmark, the former at its facility it leases at the new spaceport in Sutherland.

The company is adding an extra 1,500 square metres of factory and office space to its existing 4,750 square metre estate in Forres, Scotland and Copenhagen, Denmark. The additional space will increase the company’s launch vehicle production and propulsion system manufacturing capacity and add an extra software laboratory and an avionics clean room space with ISO 8 and ISO 9 sections. The additional capacity in Forres is just 3km from its test site at Kinloss, allowing for quick turnaround between the two sites, as Orbex ramps up its testing in the countdown to launch.

The press release doesn’t give any information about the expansion in Denmark. I wonder if it is occurring as a hedge against the kind of bureaucratic delays in the UK that destroyed Virgin Orbit. Orbex’s Prime rocket is presently under construction in Scotland, with its first launch planned for this year out of Sutherland. Whether it can get a launch permit promptly is doubtful, based on the fifteen months it took Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to approve Virgin Orbit. Orbex applied for the launch license in February 2022 (seventeen months ago) and so far there is no word from CAA about its approval.

Other Scandinavian spaceports are under construction in Sweden and Norway, which suggests establishing facilities in Denmark could strengthen Orbex’s ties to these new spaceports, especially in Sweden as both Sweden and Denmark are members of the European Union. Norway meanwhile as strong trades ties to the EU. Orbex has also signed a deal with Arianespace to launch ESA payloads, and it could be those launches could occur in French Guiana.

It seems wise if Orbex prepares for launch problems in the UK. Today’s announcement could be signalling that preparation.

Bankrupt Virgin Orbit is dead, its assets purchased by a variety of different companies

After failing to find a single buyer for the whole company, Virgin Orbit is now officially dead as a company, its assets broken up during bankruptcy proceedings and purchased by several different companies.

Rocket Lab paid $16.1 million for Virgin Orbit’s main manufacturing facility in California, which it intends to use for developing its larger Neutron rocket. Stratolaunch paid $17 million for the company’s 747 airplane and related equipment. Launcher, a former rocket startup that is now owned by the space station startup Vast, paid $2.7 for the company’s test site in Mojave, California, which it plans to use for static fire engine tests of a rocket engine it is developing for sale to others. A liquidation company purchased other assets, while the various LauncherOne rockets under construction remain unsold.

It is essential the reasons for this failure are made very clear. The destruction of this company occurred because regulators in the United Kingdom prevented it from launching from within the UK for almost half a year, during which it could not perform other launches elsewhere and therefore earn revenue. It then ran very low on cash, and when the UK launch failed in January, the company no longer had the resources to weather to time necessary to complete the investigation, fix the problem that caused the failure, and resume launches.

For other rocket startups, it is very important to consider this story before committing to launching in the UK. where you will face major bureaucratic obstacles from its government. Until there is evidence that something has changed, it might be better to consider other launch sites.

Shetland Spaceport now faces same regulatory hurdles that destroyed Virgin Orbit

The new Shetland spaceport, Saxaford, is right now attempting to get launch approvals from United Kingdom’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the same agency that dithered for six months approving a Virgin Orbit launch, thus causing the bankruptcy of that company.

According to Saxaford’s CEO, the spaceport has two launches aiming to launch before the end of this year, assuming the CAA can get its act together and give its approval. This quote however is worrisom:

The Saxavord spaceport says it is “still on track” to receive its necessary licences from the sector’s regulator before the summer. This relates to applications to the Civil Aviation Authority for range and spaceport licences.

Meanwhile SaxaVord CEO Frank Strang said the company is also on track for two rocket launches this year – “albeit they have moved slightly to the right”. [emphasis mine]

The delays could be coming from the rocket companies themselves. One of those companies is the German startup, Rocket Factory Augsburg, which has leased exclusive use of one launchsite. The other is the American startup ABL, which has had one launch attempt from the U.S. that failed.

Based on the CAA’s track record however the delays are just as likely coming from it. The CAA began this licensing process in November 2022, and is not done yet six months later.

Virgin Orbit shuts down

Unable to secure new funding, the managers of Virgin Orbit have shuttered the company, possibly forever.

Virgin Orbit is ceasing operations “for the foreseeable future” after failing to secure a funding lifeline, CEO Dan Hart told employees during an all-hands meeting Thursday afternoon. The company will lay off nearly all of its workforce. “Unfortunately, we’ve not been able to secure the funding to provide a clear path for this company,” Hart said, according to audio of the 5 p.m. ET meeting obtained by CNBC.

The layoffs include all but 100 positions, about 85% of its workforce.

The company was killed because the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) took an extra six months approving a launch license, during which the company could launch nothing and thus make no money. Lacking revenue, it ran out of cash. If the company goes into bankruptcy, this detail is most intriguing:

Branson has first priority over Virgin Orbit’s assets, as the company raised $60 million in debt from the investment arm of Virgin Group.

In other words, Branson will be able to walk off with everything, and even resurrect the company as his own, for pennies on the dollar. If he does, I guarantee our bankrupt mainstream press will shower him with praise, calling him a hero.

Virgin Orbit resumes limited operations

In anticipation of a possibly deal to save the company, Virgin Orbit officials have resumed limited operations, bringing back a small number of employees to work on crucial issues required for its next launch.

“Our first step will begin Thursday of this week, when we plan to return a subset of our team to focus on critical areas for our next mission,” Virgin Orbit said in a statement. “We are looking forward to getting back to our mission and returning to orbit.”

…Reuters reported that Virgin Orbit is working on a $200 million infusion from Texas-based venture capital investor Matthew Brown via a private share placement, citing a term sheet. Following a meeting by Virgin Orbit’s board on Tuesday, the two sides plan to close the deal on Friday, according to the non-binding term sheet, Reuters said.

Should the company resume full operations and launch again, I am certain it will not launch from the United Kingdom, at least not until the UK has fixed its launch licensing bureau, the Civil Aviation Authority, which took so long to approve Virgin Orbit’s launch from Cornwall it practically bankrupted the company.

Virgin Orbit pauses operations; seeks funding

Virgin Orbit today paused all operations for at least a week, putting almost its entire staff on furlough as it seeks new financing.

Chief Executive Dan Hart told staff that the furlough would buy Virgin Orbit time to finalise a new investment plan, a source who attended the event told Reuters news agency. It was not clear how long the furlough would last, but Mr Hart said employees would be given more information by the middle of next week.

If Virgin Orbit dies, its death will be because a British government agency killed it. The company had planned on launching from Cornwall in the early fall of 2022, at the latest, and then do several other launches in 2022, all of which would have earned it revenue. Instead, the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) delayed issuing the launch license until January 2023, about a half a year later, preventing Virgin Orbit from launching for that time and literally cutting it off from any ability to make money. The result was that it ran out of funds.

Obviously the launch failure that followed the CAA’s approval did not help. Nor did the company’s decision to rely on only one 747 to launch its satellites. Nonetheless, the fault of this company’s death can mostly be attributed to a government bureaucracy that failed in its job so badly that it destroyed a private company.

UK’s bureaucracy blasted for delaying Virgin Orbit launch

At parliamentary hearings yesterday, the United Kingdom’s Cival Aviation Authority (CAA) was heavily criticized by commercial satellite companies for delaying the launch Cornwall launch by Virgin Orbit by six months.

The harshest words came from a manager at Space Forge, that lost a satellite on that launch when Virgin Orbit’s rocket failed to reach orbit.

Patrick McCall, non-executive director at Space Forge, told MPs on the Science and Technology Select Committee, that if the company sought to launch again in the UK it would be given “short shrift” by investors. “I think unless there is a seismic change in that approach the UK is not going to be competitive from a launch perspective,” he said. “There is no chance that Josh Western [the Space Forge CEO] would win the argument to do the next launch in the UK. Even if the UK came and said you can do it for free, I would say don’t do that.

“I don’t think it’s deliberate, I think people at the CAA want to make it happen, but it’s not working, and either we change that with a seismic shift or we save the money and spend it on other things which are achievable.”

The delay also caused Virgin Orbit serious financial problems, as it prevented it from doing any other launches in 2022, resulting in a significant loss of income.

The committee chair, MP Greg Clark, underlined the testimony afterward:

“It’s a disaster isn’t it?” he said: “We attempted to show what we are capable of, and the result is it’s now toxic for a privately funded launch. We had the first attempted launch but the result is that you as an investor in space are saying there is no chance of investors supporting another launch from the UK with the current regulator conditions.”

During the hearings CAA officials justified their actions, and appeared unwilling to consider any changes.

There are two spaceports now being built in Scotland. If the CAA is not forced to change, it is very likely that commercial satellite companies will find other places in Europe to launch, such as the new Esrange spaceport being developed in Sweden.

Virgin Orbit’s launch from Cornwall finally scheduled for January 9th

The first orbital launch from the United Kingdom has finally been scheduled, with Virgin Orbit’s 747 taking off from an airport in Cornwall on January 9, 2023 and carrying its LauncherOne rocket with 9 satellites.

Monday’s mission opportunity has been purchased by the US National Reconnaissance Office and is being used to advance a number of satellite technologies of security and defence interest to both the American and British governments. But there are also civil applications being taken up on the flight – and a number of firsts, such as the first satellite built in Wales and the first satellite for the Sultanate of Oman.

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority [CAA], which regulates commercial spaceflight in the UK, said on Thursday that all nine spacecraft on the manifest had now been licensed. Virgin and Spaceport Cornwall received their launch licences before Christmas.

The launch was originally planned for sometime in the summer, but delays in obtaining the launch permits from the CAA pushed it back a half year. That unexpected and unnecessary delay now threatens the very existence of Virgin Orbit, as the company could do no other launches as it waited and thus earned nothing.

Virgin Orbit completes $37 million stock sale

It appears that Virgin Orbit has just completed a $37 million sale of new common stock, valued at $0.0001 per share, and equal to about 10% of the company.

Hat tip to stringer Jay, who writes, “To me, it is like V.O. is printing money. They have already lost most of the value of the original stock, they are losing about $20 million a quarter, and they just raised $37M.”

Virgin Orbit had planned in 2022 about eight launches. It completed two, and then got blocked by the UK bureaucracy, completing no more launches for the rest of year while it waited months for permits to launch from Cornwall. During that time it could not launch its other customers because it only had one 747 in its fleet to launch its rocket.

No launches means no income. To keep the company afloat Branson has had his larger company Virgin Group transfer first $25 million and then another $20 million to Virgin Orbit. This stock sale appears to be another effort to keep Virgin Orbit above water.

The endless and unexpected delays getting permits to launch from Cornwall now suggests that some people in the UK government might not like Branson, and took this opportunity to sabotage him. Pure speculation I know, but not beyond the realm of possibility.

UK regulators block Virgin Orbit launch

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.

Virgin Orbit schedules launch from the UK, despite no permit

Virgin Orbit has now scheduled its first launch from a Cornwall airport for December 14, 2022, even though the company has not been issued its launch permit from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of the United Kingdom, even after almost six months of delays.

Spaceport Cornwall was awarded an operators licence by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) last month, meaning the site is licensed for launch operations.

However, Virgin Orbit as the operator needs both launch and range licences from the CAA before the historic launch can happen. Spaceport Cornwall told MailOnline that December 14 is when the window opens for the first launch attempt – although this is ‘by no means a guaranteed flight date’.

According to a BBC report, that license has still not been issued. I suspect Virgin Orbit has set this date to pressure the CAA to finally get its act together and issue the permit.

UK govt requests public comment on Shetland spaceport

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of the United Kingdom, tasked with regulating space operations, has requested public comment on the environmental impact of the proposed Shetland spaceport, dubbed SaxaVord and presently under construction.

Shetland Islands Council granted planning permission in February, with Lockheed Martin and Skyrora among the companies looking at launching satellites, as early as next year.

One of the environmental considerations is for no launches or tests between mid-May and the end of June to avoid disturbing breeding birds. U nst’s 135 bird species include red-throated divers, merlins, puffins and Arctic terns.

The spaceport has said it expects to conduct at least 30 launches a year, once operational. That number is probably optimistic.

Meanwhile, it is beginning to appear that — at least in these early stages — the CAA is not going to be helpful to Great Britain’s effort to develop a space industry. Not only does this action suggest it is not enthused about this spaceport and is putting up barriers to it, it has slow-walked the licensing of the Virgin Orbit launch from Cornwall, costing that company so much money because of the delay that its liquidity was threatened.