FAA Issues Commercial Space Reentry Site Operator License to Space Florida

The Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (FAA PR) — After completing an assessment of potential environmental impacts, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved Space Florida’s application for a commercial space Reentry Site Operator License (RSOL) at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) in Titusville, Fla.

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FAA Announces Final Rule to Facilitate the Reintroduction of Civil Supersonic Flight

NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology X-plane, or QueSST, will fly over communities in the United States to demonstrate quiet supersonic. (Credits: Lockheed Martin)

WASHINGTON, DC (FAA PR) — Today the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a final rule (PDF) to facilitate the safe development of civil supersonic aircraft. The rule streamlines and clarifies procedures to obtain FAA approval for supersonic flight testing in the United States.

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Groups Protest FAA’s Curtailing of Spaceport Camden Review

Spaceport Camden launch complex (Credit: Camden County)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Environmental groups have protested a decision by the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) to limit its review of Spaceport Camden’s revised plan to launch satellites from Camden County, Georgia.

Calling the decision “unlawful,” the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) has urged the FAA to conduct a full review of the controversial plan that would allow for new public comment on the revised spaceport proposal supported by the Camden County government.

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NASA, FAA Partnership Bolsters American Commercial Space Activities

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) signed a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) reaffirming the agencies’ longstanding relationship to foster robust American commercial space transportation capabilities, including commercial crew and cargo activities.

The NASA-FAA MOU follows the success of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 launch – the first crewed mission from American soil to be licensed by the FAA.

The new agreement will support the transportation of government and non-government passengers, cargo, and other payloads for orbital and suborbital space missions in a safe and cost-effective manner, as well as streamline spaceflight standards and requirements.

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FAA Limits Evaluation of Spaceport Infrastructure Funding Options

U.S. commercial launch sites that are licensed to host or have hosted since 2015, a commercial space launch, as of August 2020 (Credit: GAO)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has rejected a recommendation from a government watchdog that it conduct detailed analysis of a broad range of financing tools for funding infrastructure projects at the nation’s spaceports.

In a report to Congressional committees, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said it recommended to the FAA that it analyze the trade-offs of using direct loans, loan guarantees, tax incentives and other tools to increase investment in spaceport infrastructure.

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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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Congress Approves Boost for Office of Space Commerce, Funding for Weather Satellites

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Congress approved a budget boost for the Office of Space Commerce (OSC) as it gears up to oversee civilian space traffic management (STM) and space situational awareness (SSA).

Congress provided OSC with $10 million and approved its plan with the merge with the Office of Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 approved on Monday. The amount is $5.9 million above the total the two offices received fiscal year 2020.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had wanted to elevate OSC into a bureau that would report directly to him. However, Congress elected to keep the office within the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS).

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FAA Holding Public Scoping Period for SpaceX Boca Chica Environmental Assessment

Starship SN8 takes off from Boca Chica, Texas. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

SpaceX Boca Chica Launch Site Scoping Period
FAA Announcement

The FAA is holding a public scoping period to assist the FAA in determining the scope of issues for analysis in the draft environmental assessment (EA). As a part of the public scoping period, the FAA requests public comments. More information about providing public comments can be found at the end of this email.

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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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Mojave Spaceport CEO Karina Drees to Become Commercial Spaceflight Federation President

Karina Drees

Washington, DC (CSF PR) – Commercial Spaceflight Federation announced today that Karina Drees will join the organization as its new president, effective January 4, 2021.

Since 2012, Drees served as CEO and General Manager of Mojave Air & Space Port (MASP) and held several other senior leadership positions at the company. She is currently the vice chair of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) and has been an active member of the CSF Board of Directors for five years, including serving as treasurer from 2017 to 2020.

“Karina brings an impressive amount of senior leadership and business acumen to CSF, as well as in-depth knowledge and experience in the policy and regulatory arenas and the proven ability to grow an organization and build strategic alliances with key industry stakeholders,” said Audrey Powers, CSF Chairwoman of the Board of Directors and Vice President of Legal and Compliance for Blue Origin.

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FAA To Begin Environmental Review at SpaceX Texas Launch Site

Rendering of SpaceX’s Boca Chica launch complex. (Credit: SpaceX)

WASHINGTON (FAA PR) — SpaceX has informed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that it plans to apply for licenses for suborbital and orbital launches of its Starship spacecraft powered by the Super Heavy rocket at its launch site in Boca Chica, Texas.

The proposed update to Starship/Super Heavy operations  falls outside of the scope of the existing final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Record of Decision for the launch site and requires additional environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). 

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Biden Appoints Ellen Stofan to Lead NASA Agency Review Team

Ellen Stofan (Credit: Smithsonian Institution)
  • Former astronaut Pam Melroy and Kathryn Sullivan also named to review teams
  • Former XPRIZE vice president leads OSTP team

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

President-elect Joe Biden has appointed former NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan to lead the review team assigned to the space agency.

Stofan, a planetary scientist who became the first female director of the National Air and Space Museum in 2018, leads an eight-member team that includes former NASA astronaut Pam Melroy and former NASA chief scientist Waleed Abdalati.

Biden has also appointed Kathryn Sullivan, who was part of the first group of women recruited as NASA astronauts, to serve on the agency review team for the Department of Commerce.

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Virgin Galactic Pivots High-speed Aircraft Program in a Crowded Field

Credit: Douglas Messier

Virgin Galactic’s record of delays and broken promises raises doubts about its ambitious supersonic aircraft project as company founder Richard Branson fights to save his struggling empire in the midst of a global pandemic.

Updated on 10/27/20 at 12:39 p.m. PDT to include spending comparison of Virgin Orbit to Rocket Lab.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Richard Branson’s dream of a suborbital Virgin Galactic vehicle zipping passengers between distant cities at hypersonic speeds above Mach 5 (6,174 km/h, 3,836 mph) is dead. At least for now.

In August, the space tourism company he founded pivoted to a slower supersonic Mach 3 (3,704 km/h, 2,302 mph) business jet. Virgin Galactic unveiled a mission concept for an aircraft that would carry 9-19 passengers at a cruising altitude of 60,000 ft (18,288 m).

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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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