The budget of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST) would more than triple over the next five years according to a re-authorization bill hammered out by House and Senate negotiators.
FAA AST’s current budget of $22.6 million would increase as follows:
- FY 2019: $33,038,000
- FY 2020: $43,500,000
- FY 2021: $54,970,000
- FY 2022: $64,449,000
- FY 2023: $75,938,000.
The measure creates a new category of commercial space support vehicles that can be used for testing, training and experiments without receiving full air-worthiness certification from the FAA. Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo, which is used to launch the SpaceShipTwo suborbital tourism vehicle, is an example of these vehicles.
The legislation calls for FAA AST to establish an Office of Spaceports that would:
- “support licensing activities for operation of launch and reentry sites;
- develop policies that promote infrastructure improvements at spaceports;
- provide technical assistance and guidance to spaceports;
- promote United States spaceports with the Department; and
- strengthen the Nation’s competitiveness in commercial space transportation infrastructure and increase resilience for the Federal Government and commercial customers.”
The legislation requires the Secretary of Transportation to submit a report to Congress that evaluates the federal government’s civil and national security transportation needs, and proposed policies and programs to ensure a resilient spaceport infrastructure for orbital and suborbital launches. The report will also evaluate efforts made by foreign competitors in these areas.
The Government Accountability Office will also produce a report on how the federal government can provide support to spaceports and improve the spaceport application review process.