Colorado Air and Space Port Receives Spaceport License

BRIGHTON, Colo. (Adams County PR) — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted a site operator license to Colorado Air and Space Port after a 180-day review period, the 11th such license granted in the United States. Colorado Air and Space Port will serve as America’s hub for commercial space transportation, research, and development.

“Facilities like Colorado Air and Space Port will be developed around the country and the world,” said Mary Hodge, chair of the Adams County Board of Commissioners. “We’ll be building a hub that connects Colorado to commercial and research opportunities across the globe.”

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Front Range Airport Receives Spaceport License

Front Range Airport in Colorado has received a spaceport license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Adams County spokesman Jim Siedlecki said the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval came through Friday. A formal announcement on the license is scheduled to take place at 11 a.m. Monday at Adams County government headquarters.

The operator license means that Spaceport Colorado, housed at Front Range Airport in Adams County, becomes the nation’s 11th facility of its kind, opening the door for Colorado to further cement its already robust reputation as an epicenter for space-related missions and business ventures.

“Certainly, having the regulatory stamp of approval from the FAA does enable Spaceport Colorado to accelerate engagement and partnerships with potential users,” said Carolyn Belle, a senior analyst with Northern Sky Research who specializes in the aerospace sector.

But it’s the users, the handful of companies developing the space planes of the future, that are lagging behind the infrastructure being built to accommodate their vehicles. Dave Ruppel, airport director for Front Range Airport, said the first horizontal launch and landing at Spaceport Colorado won’t occur for at least a half decade.

Firefly Aerospace Expands Advisory Board With Lightfoot, Nield & Others

CEDAR PARK, Texas, July 30, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Firefly Aerospace, Inc. (Firefly), a developer of orbital launch vehicles for the small to medium satellite market, announced today the formation of an all-star advisory board. Members of the board act as ambassadors and advocates of Firefly and support the executive and management teams through consultation and strategic analysis. Initial appointments to the Firefly board are Jeff Bingham, Robert M. Lightfoot, Jr., George Nield, and William F. Readdy.

Jeff Bingham brings nearly 40 years of governmental experience to Firefly. Instrumental in shaping space station policy, he served most recently as the senior advisor on space for the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. He was previously the associate administrator for NASA’s Office of Legislative Affairs. Jeff played a key role in ensuring continued congressional support for the ISS as the legislative coordinator for the International Space Station program.
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Damphousse Names to FAA COMSTAC

Paul Damphousse

RESTON, Va. (SES PR) – The U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao has appointed SES Government Solutions’ Senior Director of Business Development Paul E. Damphousse to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC), SES announced today.

The COMSTAC provides executive-level observations, findings and recommendations to the FAA Administrator regarding critical issues within the commercial space industry. Damphousse will serve as a senior industry representative and member of COMSTAC on behalf of SES GS, wholly-owned subsidiary of SES, and will advise the government during bi-annual COMSTAC meetings and through participation on the COMSTAC working groups.

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House Measure Boosts FAA Commercial Space & Spaceport Spending

Mojave Air and Space Port (Credit: Douglas Messier)

The FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST) would see its budget more than triple over the next five years while the nation’s spaceports would receive more financial support for infrastructure under a measure passed by the House on Friday.

Under the bill, FAA AST would received just under $22.6 million for fiscal year 2018, with the following increases for the years to follow:

  • 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.

FAA AST has received only small budget increases in recent years despite experiencing a large increases in its workload as it oversaw the nation’s burgeoning commercial space sector.

Despite the funding stipulated in the reauthorization bill, House and Senate appropriators are not required to fund FAA AST at these levels.

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Chao Names New Members to FAA COMSTAC

WASHINGTON –U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Elaine L. Chao today announced key additions to the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC).

“America continues to lead the way in cutting-edge space transportation technologies. I’m pleased to welcome this distinguished group to the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee and thank those members who are continuing their service,” said Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

COMSTAC provides information, advice, and recommendations to the FAA Administrator on all matters relating to U.S. commercial space transportation industry activities. The committee provides a forum for the development and communication of information from an independent perspective. COMSTAC membership consists of members of the commercial space transportation industry; the satellite industry, manufacturers and users; state and local government officials; as well as representatives from firms providing insurance, advocacy, and from academia.
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AIAA to Honor Shotwell, Nield at Gala

George Nield

RESTON, Va., April 2, 2018 (AIAA PR) — The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) has announced the 2018 recipients of its most prestigious awards. Presentation of these awards and recognition of the Institute’s newly elected Fellows and Honorary Fellows will take place on May 2 at the AIAA Aerospace Spotlight Awards Gala at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C.

The AIAA Aerospace Spotlight Awards Gala is an annual black-tie event recognizing the most influential and inspiring individuals in aerospace, whose outstanding contributions merit the highest accolades.

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Report: Nield Departure from FAA Linked to Space Deregulation Push

FAA AST’s George Nield

The Wall Street Journal reports that George Nield’s decision to retire as head of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST) at the end of March is related to dissatisfaction over the pace of deregulating space activities.

But Mr. Nield’s leaving, according to industry and government officials, was prompted at least partly by White House and cabinet-level criticism that his initiatives to ease licensing procedures for rocket launches are proceeding too slowly. Members of the White House Space Council, a senior policy-making group, and the Transportation Department’s deputy secretary have expressed displeasure about the pace of change, these officials said.

The retirement, which was a surprise to some industry officials, also comes in the face of escalating pressure by budding commercial-space ventures to streamline federal rules, cutting the time and expense of obtaining launch licenses and approvals to operate spacecraft in orbit and beyond.

Mr. Nield’s decision could end up accelerating moves by top FAA officials, along with other parts of President Donald Trump’s administration, to ease or roll back regulations covering everything from earth-observation satellites to lunar landers to eventually mining minerals on asteroids.

Last week, the White House policy group chose the Commerce Department to serve as the main catalyst to promote U.S. commercial space ventures, effectively taking that role away from the FAA. During internal administration debates leading up to that public meeting, FAA critics pushed to strip the agency of authority over launch licensing, according to two people familiar with the details.

Mr. Nield’s office, which ultimately answers to the Transportation secretary, retained that responsibility but ended up with overall reduced stature.

Read the full story.

George Nield to Retire from FAA AST

FAA AST’s George Nield

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

George Nield, who has overseen commercial space transportation at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the past decade, will be retiring at the end of March, according to SpacePolicyOnline.com.

In his position as associate administration for the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST), Nield has overseen the granting of launch licenses and experimental permits to Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, Blue Origin, ULA, Orbital ATK and other commercial space companies.

Nield has been credited with as being an effective champion of commercial space since joining FAA AST as deputy associate administrator in 2003. He was elevated to his current position upon the retirement of Patti Grace Smith in 2008.

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Branson’s Autobiography: After SpaceShipTwo’s Loss the Blame Game Began

Nitrous oxide and cabin atmosphere vent from the disintegrating SpaceShipTwo. (Credit: MARS Scientific/NTSB)

Part 3 of 3

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Finding My Virginity: The New Autobiography
Richard Branson
Portfolio
Oct. 10, 2017
482 pages

On the morning of Oct. 31, 2014, a nightmarish vision that had haunted me for months became a real-life disaster in the skies over the Mojave Desert. SpaceShipTwo dropped from its WhiteKnightTwo mother ship, lit its engine and appeared to explode. Pieces of the space plane then began to rain down all over the desert.

The motor had exploded. Or the nitrous oxide tank had burst. At least that’s what I and two photographers – whose pictures of the accident would soon be seen around the world – thought had occurred as we watched the flight from Jawbone Station about 20 miles north of Mojave.

We really believed we had seen and heard a blast nine miles overhead, the photos appeared to show one, and it was the most plausible explanation at the time.

We were wrong. More than two days after the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) revealed that co-pilot Mike Alsbury had prematurely unlocked SpaceShipTwo’s feather system during powered ascent. The ship hadn’t blown up, it had broken up as the twin tail booms reconfigured the vehicle with the engine still burning at full thrust.
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Branson’s Autobiography Part II: A Bad Day at Koehn Lake

SpaceShipTwo breaks up after the premature deployment of its feather system. (Credit: MARS Scientific/NTSB)

Part 2 of 3

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Finding My Virginity: The New Autobiography
Richard Branson
Portfolio
Oct. 10, 2017
482 pages

In his new book, Richard Branson recounts that on the morning of Oct. 31, 2014, he was on his private Caribbean island in a state of “schoolboy excitement.” The reason? Three time zones away in California’s Mojave Desert, Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites were conducting the longest and most ambitious flight test of the SpaceShipTwo suborbital tourism vehicle.

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Future Looks (Mostly) Bright for Space Industry in DC


The Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference is being held in Colorado through today. I wasn’t able to attend this year, but the following folks are there tweeting away:

  • Jeff Foust‏ @jeff_foust
  • Rand Simberg‏ @Rand_Simberg
  • Colorado Space News‏ @CO_Space_News
  • Laura Seward Forczyk @LauraForczyk

Below are updates based upon their tweets on what is happening in Washington, DC, from talks by officials from the FAA, NASA, and the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.
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GAO Finds Potential Benefits, Drawbacks in Moving FAA Space Office

Federal Aviation Administration: Stakeholders’ Perspectives on Potentially Moving the Office of Commercial Space Transportation

GAO-18-96
October 2017

Why GAO Did This Study

The Office of Commercial Space Transportation, which regulates and promotes the U.S. commercial space launch industry, was established in 1984 within the Office of the Secretary of Transportation and transferred to FAA in 1995. In 2015, GAO reported that the Office of Commercial Space Transportation faced challenges associated with the growth of the commercial space launch industry such as licensing more launches. To help meet these and other challenges such as updating regulations, some industry stakeholders and others suggested that the Office of Commercial Space Transportation should be moved back to the Office of the Secretary of Transportation.

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A Niche in Time: One Chute

SpaceShipTwo after being released for its final flight on March 31, 2014. (Credit: Virgin Galactic/NTSB)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Pete Siebold and Mike Alsbury heard the sound of hooks disengaging and felt a sharp jolt as SpaceShipTwo was released from its WhiteKnightTwo mother ship. Relieved of a giant weight, WhiteKnightTwo shot upward as the spacecraft plunged toward the desert floor.

“Fire,” Siebold said as the shadow of one of WhiteKnightTwo’s wings passed across the cabin.

“Arm,” Alsbury responded. “Fire.”

The pilots were pushed back into their seats as SpaceShipTwo’s nylon-nitrous oxide hybrid engine ignited behind them, sending the ship soaring skyward on a pillar of flames.

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