Amendment Partially Restores Funding Increase Requested for FAA Commercial Space Office

Capitol Building
The House has approved an amendment that would partially restore a requested funding increase for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST). The amendment offered by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) would add $250,000 to the office’s budget.

Citing a sharp increase in workloads, the Obama Administration had asked Congress for an additional $1.5 million for Fiscal Year 2016 in order to hire an additional 13 full-time employees for FAA AST. Officials say the plan is to eventually hire 25 full-time staffers.

“FY 2014 was a very busy year for commercial space with a total of 19 licensed or permitted launches. That is more than six times the level of activity that we had in 2012, which only had three licensed or permitted launches,” said FAA-AST Associate Administrator George Nield during the FAA’s 18th Commercial Space Transportation Conference in February.

“We have essentially been relatively flat in terms of resources in recent years,” he added. “At the same time, we’ve seen that activity level increase by a factor of six. We have been looking at improvements in terms of the different ways to do business to try to stay up with the pace.”

FAA-AST Deputy Associate Administrator Shana Dale said the office’s workload had increased dramatically.

“From fiscal year 2010 to 2012, we were floating around four to five to three launches per year,” she said. “Then the spike happened in 2013, and now we are projecting between 20 and 30 launches. That increase in sheer numbers of launches translates also into increased workload for the entire office. In safety inspections, we grew from 81 inspections in FY 2012 up to 143 of the 223 by the time we hit FY 2014. That’s just an indication of the growing workload that is happening within the office.”

Dale said the FAA currently has 30 proposals undergoing pre-application consultations, many of which involve entrepreneurs who are unfamiliar dealing with government. FAA personnel work with them to ensure their applications are complete and can be accepted by the agency.

“The first part of this story is about sheer numbers, the second part is about diversity and complexity in this industry,” Dale added. “And it is very different from when I was on the Hill, when we were dealing with expendable launch vehicles. Now you’re talking about suborbital space tourism companies, different vehicle designs, first stages, landing on barges, reusability, commercial crew, commercial cargo, balloon launches up into the stratosphere, and a host of other things. That complexity and diversity impacts the entire office.”

The decision to increase funding was praised by the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF).

“CSF applauds the passage of the Bridenstine-Rohrabacher-Posey amendment,” said CSF President Eric Stallmer. “Congressman Bridenstine and his fellow cosponsors have consistently championed pro-growth policies that enable the commercial space industry to continue to innovate, and we thank them for their leadership. CSF looks forward to working with Congressman Bridenstine, his fellow cosponsors, and Chairman Diaz-Balart as the appropriations process continues to ensure that the government has the necessary funding to be a stable and helpful partner in the economic development of space.”

  • windbourne

    The reason that constellation was killed and manned private launch delayed is because of constant underfunding by the house GOP. It appears that they wish to continue this nightmare to make sure that funding keeps flowing to putin and their SLS jobs program.

  • James

    Look wind I don’t like this shit anymore than you do but can you calm down the party rhetoric? Please?

    Yes the GOP is making the SLS its baby because they are making sure the MASSIVE government funded space shuttle infrastructure stays in place. They are elected by those states by the people in them.

    I mean you don’t want those people to lose their jobs do you! You monster!! See its easy.

    Do i think its bullshit? Of course but compared to most things in this country its par for the course.

    And if you don’t think the Democrats wouldn’t do the same thing in the situation your blinder than I thought.

  • windbourne

    James, you need to re-read what I said on that.
    BOTH parties are to blame for pushing the SLS. I do not blame one or the other on that. They are BOTH pushing it since it helps both of them.
    However, it is the neo-cons within the GOP that are fighting to kill off private space (actually, just new private space). The dems, and even the tea party, are opposed to that. The problem is that in the house, the tea* MUST toe the line with the neo-cons or they will get in serious trouble. As such, the neo-cons control the GOP in the house.

    But, make no mistake, it is the neo-cons of the house GOP that are working hard to kill off new space. Even the neo-cons in the Senate do not want to do the damage that the house does.

    And as to the dems, they are worthless.

  • tdperk

    “However, it is the neo-cons within the GOP that are fighting to kill off private space (actually, just new private space).”

    Neo-cons have nothing to do with it. From your use of it, I don’t think you even know what the word means.

  • windbourne

    Do you think that the tea party wants to cut private space funding? Nope.
    It is the old guard neo-cons that remain inside of the GOP (the real republicans left the GOP LONG AGO).

  • James

    Its not NEO-CONS. Remember As i have said before. Its those who were elected by the congressional districts with lost of former shuttle logistics stuff in their states and area’s.

    Basically your fight is to convince the voters they don’t want to keep those jobs. Unfortunately for you many places are basically screwed without those industries so…we got the SLS.

  • tdperk

    There are no old guard neo-cons. By definition a neo-con is someone who more-or-less converted from leftism to conservatism post cold war.

    It’s not code for, “Republicans I don’t like”.