(Bloomberg) -- Britain’s aviation regulator said Virgin Orbit Holdings Inc. alone decided to delay the country’s first-ever space launch as it grapples with last-minute snags, and that the move had nothing to do with licensing issues.
“The UK space regulation process is not a barrier to a UK space launch,” Tim Johnson, director for space at the Civil Aviation Authority, said in a statement Thursday. He added that hurdles cited by Virgin “in no way relate to the timing of when a licence will be issued.”
Virgin Orbit, owned by billionaire Richard Branson, said earlier that the mission from Spaceport Cornwall in southwest England planned for Dec. 14 had been put on hold. Chief Executive Officer Dan Hart said the decision was made since UK licenses for the launch and its satellite payload remain outstanding and additional technical work is needed to establish system health and readiness.
Given an “available launch window of only two days, we have determined that it is prudent to re-target launch for the coming weeks to allow ourselves and our stakeholders time to pave the way for full mission success,” Hart said.
The Cornish hub had already been issued with Britain’s first-ever spaceport license. The CAA said so called wet testing, in which the launcher — slung under the wing of a Boeing Co. 747 from which it later blasts away — is loaded with fuel which, was carried out at the weekend.
The CAA said previously it was in the “very advanced stages” of giving the go ahead for the Virgin Orbit mission, as well licensing firms planning to deploy satellites.
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