A Closer Look at the UK’s Commercial Space Review

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Following the release of the document, “UK Government Review of Commercial Spaceplane Certification and Operations: Summary and Conclusions,” almost all media attention focused on one element of the report: the 8 candidate sites for the nation’s first spaceport.

This laser focus is easy to understand. The fierce, tooth-and-nail competition to land some big government project will be fun to watch. And spaceports are super cool. Well, they are when space planes are actually flying to space. When like a decade goes by with people promising imminent spaceflights without a single one taking place, spaceports become a lot less cool.  (I’m looking at you…everybody in Mojave!)

But, I digress. I went through the 80-page document and the 321-page technical report its based on so you don’t have to. Why would I do this? Because you guys are the best! You’re very welcome.

Key excerpts follow with commentary as appropriate. Read away!

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Big US-Euro Divide on Commercial Spaceflight Regulations

The United States and Europe are taking very different approaches to regulating the emerging commercial human spaceflight industry, a divergence that could cause headaches for spacecraft operators forced to operate in very different regulatory environments.

The European Aviation Safety Administration (EASA) plans to certify winged vehicles that will fly into space under its authority to regulate aircraft.The FAA is taking a less strict approach of licensing vehicle launches without a costly certification process.

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Update on EASA Space Tourism Regulatory Push

With Virgin Galactic planning to fly space tourism flights from Kiruna, Sweden, the European Aviation Safety Agency has started to develop safety rules for civilian spaceflight – although the scope of the regulations will be limited, New Scientist reports.

“But the agency admits it cannot legislate for flights beyond the atmosphere: “EASA has no competency nor mandate for outer space, where international law applies.” The International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety wants a United Nations-backed global agreement that mandates safety measures in space.”

Europe Looks at Space Tourism Certification as FAA Tells Millionauts They’re On Their Own

Rob Coppinger has a couple of interesting stories over at Flight Global concerning divergent approaches to regulating space tourism. Europe is looking at certification while millionauts in America would be left with caveat emptor.

EASA’s Space Tourism Approach Requires Certification

“The European Aviation Safety Agency has unveiled its proposed regulatory approach for suborbital aircraft at a space safety conference in Rome. Its proposals are that designers and operators of such vehicles will have to be fully certificated before the first commercial flight, including operations, flight crew and passenger licensing and continued airworthiness.”

Little progress means no change for US space tourism rule

“For customers, only an informed waiver is required to show that the individual understands the risks involved and the vehicles they fly in do not have to be certificated by the FAA. Its office of commercial space transport is overseeing the nascent industry.”