FAA Issues Draft Environmental Assessment for SpaceShipTwo Powered Flights in Mojave

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Powered flights of SpaceShipTwo took a step forward today as the FAA issued a draft environmental assessment that recommends granting experimental permits and launch licenses to Scaled Composites to begin suborbital test missions from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

“An experimental permit is valid for one year and authorizes an unlimited number of launches and reentries of a reusable suborbital rocket from a U.S. launch site. A permitee can renew its permit by submitting an application to the FAA/AST at least 60 days before the permit expires,” the EA reads.

“A launch license for a reusable launch vehicle is valid for two years and authorizes a licensee to launch and reenter, or otherwise land, any of a designated family of reusable launch vehicles within authorized parameters, including launch sites and trajectories, transporting specified classes of payloads to any reentry site or other location designated in the license,” the assessment reads.

The FAA approval is based on the assumption of 30 annual launches and re-entries of SpaceShipTwo between 2012 and 2016, which provides a good sense of the flight test program.

“If the total number of launches and reentries under all issued experimental permits and launch licenses (new or renewed) for SpaceShipTwo operations exceeded 30 per year during 2012 to 2016, additional environmental analyses would be required, as appropriate,” according to the document.

Under the test plan, WhiteKnightTwo would release SpaceShipTwo at an altitude of 50,000 feet. SpaceShipTwo would then ignite its hybrid engine and fly into suborbital space.

The FAA has posted the Draft EA on the FAA/AST Web site at http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ast/environmental/review/permits/. Paper copies are available for review at the Edwards Air Force Base Library and all Kern County Library branches during normal business hours.

Interested parties have until April 13, 2012 to submit comments or concerns. Comments must be submitted in writing to

Mr. Daniel Czelusniak,
Environmental Program Lead, Office of Commercial Space Transportation
Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Avenue SW., Room 325
Washington, DC 20591

or by email at Daniel.Czelusniak@faa.gov

If no objections are raised that cause officials to reconsider the recommendation, the FAA will grant the permits and licenses for Scaled Composites to begin the powered test flight program.