Tag: FAA

SpaceX’s Proposed Texas Spaceport Passes Key Environmental Hurdle

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Location (in red) of SpaceX's proposed commercial spaceport. (Credit: Environment Texas)

Location (in red) of SpaceX’s proposed commercial spaceport. (Credit: Environment Texas)

Some good news for SpaceX for its planned commercial spaceport on the Texas coast south of Brownsville:

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assessment regarding proposed rocket launches in Cameron County has brought SpaceX another step closer to planting its flag on Boca Chica Beach, officials indicated Thursday.

The proposed rocket launch site has passed its latest round of scrutiny from the federal wildlife agency, which has issued its final opinion to the Federal Aviation Administration, according to documents released on the FAA’s website.

The USFWS’s opinion is that rocket launches would “not likely jeopardize” endangered species in Cameron County. In the report, the agency suggested measures to avoid or minimize what it described as minimal risks to wildlife and habitat…

The USFWS opinion seemingly clears many of the remaining environmental questions that faced SpaceX’s goal of staging commercial rocket launches on an approximately 50-acre lot near Boca Chica Beach that neighbors wildlife refuge area managed by federal and state officials.

Read the full story.

Senate Committee Passes Spaceflight Licensing & Permitting Measure

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The Senate Commerce Committee approved a measure on Wednesday that would allow space companies to fly their reusable launch vehicles under experimental permits even after the Federal Aviation Administration issues launch license.

Currently, the experimental permit is superseded by launch license, making it more difficult to use the vehicle to test modifications later on.

Continue reading ‘Senate Committee Passes Spaceflight Licensing & Permitting Measure’

New Experimental Permit Measure Introduced in Congress

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Sen. Martin Heinrich (R-NM) has introduced a measure that would allow experimental permits issued for commercial reusable launch vehicles to remain active after a launch license is issued for the vehicles.

Currently, the experimental permits are no longer valid after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issues a launch or re-entry license. This arrangement makes it more difficult for companies to flight test vehicles and make changes in them.

The proposed measure also broadens the definition of what is covered from “suborbital rocket design” to “suborbital rocket or rocket design.”

Heinrich’s bill is similar to the Suborbital and Orbital Advancement and Regulatory Streamlining Act (SOARS) that Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) introduced in the House in December.

McCarthy’s measure, which also includes “a demonstration project…to evaluate the benefits of using experimental aircraft for both the direct and indirect support of commercial space launch and reentry activities,” is currently before the House Subcommittee on Space.

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FAA Seeks Public Comment on Midland Spaceport Draft Environmental Assessment

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faa_logoDraft Environmental Assessment – Public Review and Comment Period

The FAA has initiated a public review and comment period for the Draft EA. Interested parties are invited to submit comments on the Draft EA, preferably in writing, on or before April 21, 2014. An electronic version of the Draft EA is available by clicking the following link:

Midland International Air and Space Port: – Draft Environmental Assessment (PDF)

In addition, a printed copy of the Draft EA is available at the following locations:

  • Midland County Library – 301 West Missouri Avenue, Midland, Texas 79701
  • Ector County Library – 321 W. 5th Street, Odessa, Texas 79761
  • Reagan County Library – 300 Courthouse Square Big Lake, Texas 76932

The FAA will hold an open house public meeting on April 8, 2014, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, Center for Energy and Economic Diversification (Foyer), located at 1400 North FM 1788, Midland, Texas 79701 (southeast corner of SH 191 and FM 1788). The public will be able to speak to project representatives one-on-one and submit written comments or provide oral comments to a stenographer. Comments or questions on the Draft EA should be sent on or before April 21, 2014 and may be addressed to Mr. Daniel Czelusniak, Office of Commercial Space Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Avenue, SW, Suite 325, Washington, DC 20591 or submitted by email to FAAMidlandEA@icfi.com.

McCarthy and Virgin Galactic Hope Commercial Space Measure SOARS

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By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In a move that would have a major impact on how Virgin Galactic and other space companies operate, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has introduced legislation that would simplify the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) permitting and licensing procedures for new commercial spacecraft.

The Suborbital and Orbital Advancement and Regulatory Streamlining Act (SOARS) also would broaden the definitions of launch vehicles and launch services to include the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft and spaceflight participant training conducted aboard it.

Another section of the measure would require the FAA to undertake a three-year demonstration project “to evaluate the benefits of using experimental aircraft for both the direct and indirect support of commercial space launch and reentry activities.”

Continue reading ‘McCarthy and Virgin Galactic Hope Commercial Space Measure SOARS’

Terminal Velocity Received NASA Contract for Small Payload Return Capsule

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Terminal_VelocityATLANTA, GA, March 4, 2014 (VTA PR) – Terminal Velocity Aerospace, LLC (TVA) has been awarded a contract by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) for development of a prototype small payload return capsule. Designed as a high-altitude drop test article, the prototype will demonstrate mission-enabling communications technologies and verify integrated performance, including functionality of its parachute recovery system. This effort is directly in alignment with TVA’s plan to develop a small reentry device (RED), called RED-4U, capable of returning the payload mass and volume equivalent of four CubeSats, commonly referred to in units of “U.”

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Endangered Sea Turtles, Leopards Among Concerns About SpaceX’s Proposed Launch Site Near Brownsville

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Location (in red) of SpaceX's proposed commercial spaceport. (Credit: Environment Texas)

Location (in red) of SpaceX’s proposed commercial spaceport. (Credit: Environment Texas)

SpaceX’s proposed commercial spaceport south of Brownsville, Texas, is surrounded by a nearly 11,000-acre wildlife preserve that is home to multiple endangered animals, including nesting sea turtles and two species of wild cats, according to the Sierra Club.

The Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last June expressing concerns over how the species and wildlife preserve will be protected if the California-based launch company goes forward with its plan to construct the spaceport.

Continue reading ‘Endangered Sea Turtles, Leopards Among Concerns About SpaceX’s Proposed Launch Site Near Brownsville’

NASA, FAA Cooperate on Commercial Crew Program

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NASA_FAA_comm_crew_logosWASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have complementary and interdependent interests in ensuring that commercially developed human space transportation systems for low-Earth orbit are safe and effective. The FAA regulates the U.S. commercial space transportation industry for public safety during launch and re-entry. NASA is enabling the development and demonstration of human space transportation systems via the Commercial Crew Program.

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A Closer Look at Blue Origin’s Expanded Testing in West Texas

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Blue Origin’s pusher escape system rockets the New Shepard crew capsule away from the launch pad. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin’s pusher escape system rockets the New Shepard crew capsule away from the launch pad. (Credit: Blue Origin)

The FAA recently approved Blue Origin’s application to expand operations at its West Texas test site “to include new development vehicles, which would use liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellants.”

The supplemental environmental assessment was required because of a shift in propellants used in flight tests. The FAA conducted an earlier review in 2006 when it originally approved the testing of reusable propulsion modules and crew capsules (CCs) at the site.

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Group Launches Petition Opposing SpaceX Launch Facility in South Texas

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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.

A group has started a petition urging SpaceX to find another place to launch its Falcon rockets other than Boca Chica Beach near Brownsville, Texas.

To: Elon Musk, CEO of Space Exploration Technologies (Space X)

This south Texas site which you have selected for your rocket launch facility is surrounded by federally protected land, home to threatened and endangered species. It borders the ecologically essential South Bay of the Laguna Madre, the nation’s only hypersaline lagoon, a nursery for shrimp and coastal fish.

Please choose another location for your rocket launch site.

Read the full petition.

Over on the El Rrun Rrun blog, Juan Montoya says that it’s not just environmental concerns that should block SpaceX from building a launch facility near the beach. He also accuses local officials of over hyping the number of jobs created and the resulting economic benefits while offering too much in subsidies to SpaceX.

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