Embry-Riddle to Collaborate with FAA on Space Transportation Research


November 2, 2009

The Space Shuttle’s fast-approaching retirement is opening up new opportunities for commercial space transportation, and Embry-Riddle is making strides to support the industry’s growth under a new collaboration with the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation. A new agreement with the agency identifies five space transportation topics that can be supported by Embry-Riddle faculty and student researchers:

  • Special Activity Airspace Standards: Developing airspace design and risk determination standards for Special Activity Airspace during nominal and non-nominal space flight operations.
  • Critical Spaceport Infrastructure Needs: Assessing infrastructure requirements for commercial human spaceflight operations to mitigate safety, schedule, and program risks.
  • Space Launch Operations Issues and Anomalies: Quantitative and qualitative analyses to gain a better understanding of credible failure modes for launch systems.
  • Uncertainty Risk Study: Developing a mathematical method for comparing space transportation risk factors.
  • Spaceport Capacity Study: Identifying capacity “breaking points” for specific spaceports and their surrounding airspace for current and future air/space traffic densities.

Under the agreement, Embry-Riddle and the FAA will initially support faculty and student work on at least two of the research topics, allowing presentations on their progress during an upcoming FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation conference. Embry-Riddle is also exploring ways to integrate space transportation information and scenarios into its air traffic management training and curriculum and to educate space-literate air traffic leaders who can help integrate aviation and space transportation operations.

“This effort is a timely one, now that a blue-ribbon panel has finalized its report to the White House on the future of U.S. space exploration,” said Christina Frederick-Recascino, Embry-Riddle’s vice president for research. “Pointing to similarities with the early days of the aviation industry, the panel says it is now appropriate for NASA to start turning to the commercial sector for transporting crew to the International Space Station.”

The agreement is an outgrowth of recent meetings between officials from Embry-Riddle and the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation. The FAA, which already regulates commercial rocket launches and multiple spaceports nationwide, is watching closely as several U.S. companies make progress on crew-carrying rockets and reusable space planes. These vehicles will present unique challenges for the FAA with their high-speed flight through the national airspace system during their ascent and descent from space.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the world’s largest, fully accredited university specializing in aviation and aerospace, offers more than 30 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in its colleges of Arts and Sciences, Aviation, Business, and Engineering. Embry-Riddle educates students at residential campuses in Prescott, Ariz., and Daytona Beach, Fla., through the Worldwide Campus at more than 130 campus centers in the United States, Europe, Canada, and the Middle East, and through online learning. For more information, visit www.embryriddle.edu.