Tag: FAA

FAA Releases Recommended Practices for Human Spaceflight Safety

Comments

faa_logoWASHINGTON (FAA PR) — After working closely with NASA, industry, and other key stakeholders, the FAA has issued its “Recommended Practices for Human Space Flight Occupant Safety.”

This document is the culmination of a 3-year effort which involved researching existing human space flight standards, conducting a series of public teleconferences to gather recommendations, and soliciting feedback from the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC).

Continue reading ‘FAA Releases Recommended Practices for Human Spaceflight Safety’

Statement on Midland Airport Spaceport License

Comments
Lynx cockpit view. (Credit: XCOR)

Lynx cockpit view. (Credit: XCOR)

MIDLAND, Texas (Press Release)—In a joint release today, the Midland International Airport, Midland Development Corporation, XCOR Aerospace and Orbital Outfitters announced the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval of a Commercial Space Launch Site License (Spaceport) for the Midland International Airport (MAF). Midland International Airport is the first primary commercial service airport to be certified by the FAA under the Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 420 as a spaceport and will furthermore be referred to as the Midland International Air & Space Port.

Continue reading ‘Statement on Midland Airport Spaceport License’

Midland International Airport Gets Spaceport License

Comments
Texas Gov. Rick Perry flanked by XCOR officials in front of a full-scale mockup of the Lynx space plane in Midland. (Credit: Gov. Rick Perry's Office)

Texas Gov. Rick Perry flanked by XCOR officials in front of a full-scale mockup of the Lynx space plane in Midland. (Credit: Gov. Rick Perry’s Office)

FAA Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation George Nield announced today the agency has awarded a spaceport license to Midland International Airport, paving the way for XCOR Aerospace to move its research and development operations there next year.

Nield made the announcement this morning at the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) meeting in Washington, D.C. Midland Airport Director Marvin Esterly was present to receive the license.

XCOR signed an agreement to move to Midland from Mojave, Calif., in July 2012. That move was contingent upon the Midland airport receiving a spaceport license that will allow XCOR to fly its Lynx suborbital spacecraft.

XCOR plans to move to Midland next year after conducting initial flight tests in Mojave.

Book Review: Safe is Not An Option

17 Comments

safe_not_optionSafe is Not an Option: Overcoming the Futile Obsession with Getting Everyone Back Alive that is Killing Our Expansion into Space
By Rand Simberg
Interglobal Media LLC
2013

On May 26, 1865, Captain J. C. Mason pushed off from a dock in Vicksburg, Miss., and steered the steam-powered paddle wheeler SS Sultana north along the rain-swollen Mississippi River. The Sultana’s decks groaned from the weight of more than 2,500 passengers and crew members.

At 2 a.m. the following morning, the ship’s boilers exploded north of Memphis. As many as 1,800 people died in the explosion and fire or drowned in the fast flowing river. The majority of the dead were Union soldiers recently released from a pair of hellish Confederate prison camps. Their ticket home had become a death warrant.

Continue reading ‘Book Review: Safe is Not An Option’

FAA Proposes Changes to Risk Assessment for Commercial Launches, Reentries

Comment

faa_logoThe FAA has proposed changing the way it calculates collective risk limits for commercial launches and reentries. A brief summary is reproduced below. For more information, visit the entry in the Federal Register.

Notice Of Proposed Rulemaking

Summary

The FAA proposes to amend the collective risk limits for commercial launches and reentries. Under this proposal, the FAA would separate its expected-number-of-casualties (E c) limits for launches and reentries. For commercial launches, the FAA proposes to aggregate the E c posed by the following hazards: Impacting inert and explosive debris, toxic release, and far field blast overpressure. The FAA proposes to limit the aggregate E c for these three hazards to 1 × 10 4. For commercial reentries, the FAA proposes to aggregate the E c posed by debris and toxic release, and set that E c under an aggregate limit of 1 × 10 4. Under the FAA’s proposal, the aggregate E c limit for both launch and reentry would be expressed using only one significant digit.

The FAA also proposes to clarify the regulatory requirements concerning hazard areas for ships and aircraft. The proposed rule would require a launch operator to establish a hazard area where the probability of impact does not exceed: 0.000001 (1 × 10 6) for an aircraft; and 0.00001 (1 × 10 5) for a water-borne-vessel.

The Risks of Airplane and Spacecraft Travel — By the Numbers

Comments

Earth_from_space_graphic
In the “UK Government Review of Commercial Spaceplane Certification and Operations Technical Report,” there is a fascinating section outlining the risks of aviation and spaceflight. It is worth quoting at length because it shows the risks people take in different types of flights, and the nearly complete lack of safety data involving the emerging field of space tourism.

The key excerpts are below. I’ve added emphasis to spotlight the key statistics.

Over the past hundred years, commercial aviation has evolved to the extent that, for public transport, operations involving ICAO-certified aircraft achieve a catastrophic failure rate better than 1×10-7. This means that catastrophic failure takes place less than once in every 10 million hours of flight.

Continue reading ‘The Risks of Airplane and Spacecraft Travel — By the Numbers’

A Closer Look at the UK’s Commercial Space Review

Comment

Earth_from_space_graphic
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!

Continue reading ‘A Closer Look at the UK’s Commercial Space Review’

Virgin Galactic Launch License on Hold While Legislative Fix is Sought

Comments
SpaceShipTwo on final approach during a glide flight on Jan. 17, 2014. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

SpaceShipTwo on final approach during a glide flight on Jan. 17, 2014. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Galactic’s application for a launch license for SpaceShipTwo has been on hold since January while legislators in Washington attempt to fix a quirk in the Federal Aviation Administration’s regulations governing licenses and experimental permits, the company said.

The specific issue involves a provision in the law that makes an experimental permit invalid once a launch license is issued for a vehicle, according to Will Pomerantz, Virgin Galactic’s vice president for special projects. Flight testing of SpaceShipTwo and its WhiteKnightTwo mother ship is continuing at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

Continue reading ‘Virgin Galactic Launch License on Hold While Legislative Fix is Sought’

FAA Approves SpaceX Launch Complex in Texas

26 Comments
Artist's conception of the proposed SpaceX commercial launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.

Artist’s conception of the proposed SpaceX commercial launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved SpaceX’s plan to build a spaceport south of Brownsville, Texas, to launch Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and suborbital rockets.

In its record of decision, the FAA said that while the environmentally preferable alternative would be to reject the application and having nothing constructed in the beachfront area, the option is not in keeping with the agency’s purpose.

Continue reading ‘FAA Approves SpaceX Launch Complex in Texas’

Endangered Chicken Impacting Midland Spaceport License Application

Comments
Lesser prairie chicken

Lesser prairie chicken

An update on Midland International Airport’s application for a spaceport license, which is necessary for XCOR to move its R&D facility to the West Texas facility:

It appears the mating rituals of the lesser prairie chicken are imposing on Midland International Airport’s pursuit of a spaceport license.

After the chicken was federally listed in March, the airport submitted an addendum to its environmental assessment explaining why the spaceport wouldn’t be a threat to the now “threatened” species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, worried about sonic booms negatively impacting the small chicken’s early-morning spring mating habits, has yet to approve the addendum.

But Midland Director of Airports Marv Esterly — who offered to send biologists to Andrews County to study how the first five launches would impact the chickens — fully expects the service to sign off and the Federal Aviation Administration to deliver a finding of “no significant impact.”

“They are really sensitive to what’s out there,” Esterly said during Tuesday’s Spaceport Development Corp. meeting. “We feel the sonic boom is so small — so much less than a thunder clap — that it won’t have an effect.”

The FAA is set to make a decision by Sept. 15.

Read the full story.