Lucas, Babin Push Back Against NTSB Move to Expand Role into Commercial Space Accident Investigations

Part of SpaceShipTwo’s fuselage. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

WASHINGTON (Frank Lucas/Brian Babin PR) — House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas joined Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Ranking Member Brian Babin in a letter to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) requesting information on their attempts to expand their role in commercial space accident investigations. Concurrently, Babin introduced a resolution to reiterate that commercial space launch is a developmental activity, rather than a mode of transportation.

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U.S. DOT Renews Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee

WASHINGTON (US DOT PR) — The U.S. Department of Transportation is renewing the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) through June 2023.

COMSTAC members lend their expertise to provide advice and recommendations to the Department and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on a host of topics. From safety and technology to operations and the international competitiveness of the U.S. commercial space transportation industry, members provide useful and relevant information.

The committee is currently charged with proposing updates to FAA’s human spaceflight guidance materials and recommending a spaceport grant funding mechanism, among several other tasks.

The role of COMSTAC is critical as the pace of commercial space operations quickens. In 2020, the FAA licensed 41 commercial space launches and reentries, the most in the agency’s history. For 2021, that number could reach 50 or more.

COMSTAC was first established in 1984. It is composed of approximately 22 members with experience in commercial space transportation. Members are appointed by the Secretary of Transportation.

The new COMSTAC charter can be viewed here.

Lucas and Babin Send Letter to Secretary Buttigieg on Encouraging Growth in Commercial Spaceflight Industry

WASHINGTON, DC (House Science Committee Minority PR) — Today, House Science, Space, and Technology Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Subcommittee on Space & Aeronautics Ranking Member Brian Babin (R-TX) sent a letter to Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Peter Buttigieg regarding commercial spaceflight and the policies needed to keep the industry both thriving and safe. 

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Report: Biden to Retain National Space Council

NASA’s Orion spacecraft that flew Exploration Flight Test-1 on Dec. 5, 2014 is seen on the South Lawn of the White House, Sunday, July 22, 2018 in Washington, DC. Lockheed Martin, NASA’s prime contractor for Orion, began manufacturing the Orion crew module in 2011 and delivered it in July 2012 to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center where final assembly, integration and testing was completed. More than 1,000 companies across the country manufactured or contributed elements to the spacecraft. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Politico reports that the Biden Administration will retain the National Space Council. The council was revived by the Trump Administration in 2017 to coordinate national space activities after a 24-year gap in operation.

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U.S. DOT Supports Record Number of Licensed Commercial Space Launches

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky)

WASHINGTON (US DOT PR) — The U.S. Department of Transportation is having a record year with supporting 35 licensed commercial space launches thus far in 2020 with the potential for even more before the year ends. The prior record of 33 was established in 2018.

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U.S. DOT Supports Record Number of Licensed Commercial Space Launches

WASHINGTON (U.S. DOT PR) — The U.S. Department of Transportation is having a record year with supporting 35 licensed commercial space launches thus far in 2020 with the potential for even more before the year ends. The prior record of 33 was established in 2018.

“The record number of launches demonstrates this administration’s commitment to support the innovation and growth of the U.S. commercial space transportation industry and lead the world in aerospace capabilities,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

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DOT Announces Reform of Launch & Reentry Licensing Requirements

WASHINGTON (DOT PR) – U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao today announced the publication of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Streamlined Launch and Reentry Licensing Requirements Final Rule (PDF) for commercial space transportation  launches and reentries.

“This historic, comprehensive update to commercial space launch and reentry licensing requirements facilitates greater growth in this industry and helps America to maintain our #1 position in the world,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

This rule modernizes the way FAA regulates and licenses commercial space operations and allows the burgeoning aerospace industry to continue to innovate and grow, while maintaining public safety. 

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Fact Sheet – FAA Streamlined Launch and Reentry Licensing Requirements (SLR2) Rule

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a new streamlined launch and reentry rule (PDF) that replaces prescriptive requirements with performance-based criteria. The new rule — SLR2 — allows launch and reentry vehicle operators to focus on innovation as it replaces cumbersome, prescriptive requirements with flexible, performance-based criteria.

Under the President’s Space Policy Directive-2 (SPD-2), the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) is consolidating and revising multiple regulatory parts and applying a single set of licensing and safety regulations across several types of operations and vehicles. The new rule requires a single license for all types of commercial space flight launch and reentry operations, and increases flexibility for launch and reentry vehicle operators.

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Failure of Aging Satellites Could Leave U.S. Partially Blind to Space Weather

Diagram of DSCOVR spacecraft. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Tne failures of three aging satellites the United States relies upon to forecast space weather could leave the nation partially blind to electromagnetic storms that could severely disrupt electrical grids, communications systems, aviation and Global Positioning System (GPS) dependent navigation.

“The observations that we rely on to provide alerts and warnings are critical. Should we lose some of the key spacecraft that we talk about, I won’t say we’re blind but we’re darn close. It will impact our ability to support this nation’s need for space weather services. And I don’t want to see that happen,” said William Murtagh, director of NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center.

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Space Florida Gets $90 Million Grant to Replace Bridge, Road Improvements

EXPLORATION PARK, Fla. (Space Florida PR) – Space Florida is moving forward on a $90 million infrastructure improvement grant recently awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). The grant will support three interrelated projects, including replacing the aging SR 405 bridge over the Indian River Lagoon, widening Space Commerce Way, and revitalizing a 3.7-mile stretch of NASA Parkway West. The project is expected to take approximately five years to complete.

With the award in place, Space Florida and its partners from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center can now move forward with the project. The grant, which is part of DOT’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America INFRA) program, will support growing aerospace industry and launch activities at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The current bridge will be replaced with two new high-span bridges, and the widening of the roadways will facilitate launch traffic, simplify transport of oversized launch hardware, and improve access for visitors.

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Bay Area Transit Chief Could Become Transportation Secretary

Bay Area transportation chief Heminger said to be atop short list for transportation secretary

San Jose Mercury News

“Steve Heminger, head of the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission, is reportedly at or near the top of the list of finalists to be transportation secretary in the Barack Obama administration. Heminger, whose name has been in circulation for a few weeks on unofficial lists of Cabinet contenders, now is reportedly ‘in the rail position for the job,’ according to a column in Friday’s Washington Post.

“A spokesman for the MTC said Heminger is refusing to talk about the speculation and would not confirm the Post’s report that he has met with Obama.

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Obama Transition Update: Richardson Finalist to Lead State

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson – a leading force behind Spaceport America – is a finalist to become the new Secretary of State, according to numerous published reports. President-elect Barack Obama is also considering Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for the position.

Meanwhile, transition teams are busy at work preparing for new leadership at NASA and the Department of Transportation, which includes the Federal Aviation Administration.

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Oberstar at DOT Raises Heckles with NewSpace Supporters, Prospects for Regulation

Speculation that Rep. James Oberstar of Minnesota could become the next Secretary of Transportation has sent a chill running up and down the carbon composite spines of space tourism advocates. MSNBC‘s Alan Boyle has a nice summary at Cosmic Log:

“The idea that Oberstar might play a role in commercial space transportation has sparked concern on the part of New Space proponents such as Transterrestrial Musings’ Rand Simberg and Clark Lindsey over at RLV and Space Transport News.

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