Tag: FAA

SpaceX’s Philosophy: Reliability Through Continual Upgrades

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falcon9_debris

Remains of a Falcon 9 rocket fall to Earth.

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

To succeed in the launch business, you need to be very, very good and more than a little bit lucky. Eventually, there comes a day when you are neither.

That is what happened to SpaceX on June 28. A string of 18 successful Falcon 9 launches was snapped as the company’s latest rocket broke up in the clear blues skies over the Atlantic Ocean. A Dragon supply ship headed for the International Space Station was lost, SpaceX’s crowded manifest was thrown into confusion, and the company’s reputation for reliability was shattered.

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CSF Praises Modest Increase in FAA AST Budget

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faa_logoWASHINGTON, D.C. (CSF PR) — Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2016 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Bill. The Bill provides $17.425 million for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, $2 million for Commercial Space Transportation Safety, and $2 million for Facilities and Equipment to better integrate Commercial Space Traffic with the National Airspace System.

The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) ensures that commercial launch and reentry activities are conducted without additional risk to the public or adjacent property, and that the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States are protected. While the Senate’s THUD Appropriations Bill doesn’t fund all of the requested increase in AST funding, it should ensure that AST can diligently process commercial space licenses and permits in a timely manner, without having to prioritize some applications over others, and thereby potentially delay some launches.

There were nine licensed or permitted Commercial Launches in FY 2015, and five Commercial Reentries. Each launch and reentry requires careful analysis of systems and trajectories, and coordination with air traffic to ensure public safety. Research into improved safety methods, and funding to improve facilities and equipment will streamline some activities and automate others. These are critical improvements as both space and air traffic volume increase. In addition to the FAA AST’s licensing and permit responsibilities, the Office also has oversight support responsibilities related to launch accident investigations.

“CSF applauds the Senate Appropriations Committee, and especially subcommittee leaders Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI) for supporting the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation in a time of unprecedented activity,” said CSF President Eric Stallmer. “We also want to especially thank Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) for helping ensure that the FAA has the resources necessary to be a reliable and responsible partner in the economic development of space. CSF looks forward to continuing to work with Senate and House Appropriators to maintain the Senate’s number or even achieve the full budget request as they complete the FY 2016 appropriations process.”

Ellington Airport Becomes 10th FAA Licensed Spaceport

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Artist's rendition of Ellington Spaceport includes two Virgin Galactic WhiteKnightTwo/SpaceShipTwo combinations, Orbital ATK's Stargazer air-launch plane, and a futuristic looking point-to-point aircraft. (Credit: Houston Airport System)

Artist’s rendition of Ellington Spaceport includes two Virgin Galactic WhiteKnightTwo/SpaceShipTwo combinations, Orbital ATK’s Stargazer air-launch plane, and a futuristic looking point-to-point aircraft. (Credit: Houston Airport System)

HOUSTON, June 30, 2015 (HAS PR) — The Houston Airport System (HAS) has been granted a Launch Site License from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that enables Ellington Airport (EFD) to establish itself as a launch site for Reusable Launch Vehicles (RLV), making it the 10th commercial spaceport in the United States.

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Satellite Applications Catapult Signs MOU for Houston Spaceport

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EllingtonAirportHoustonHARWELL, England (Satellite Applications Catapult PR) — The Satellite Applications Catapult signed a Memorandum of Understanding today with the City of Houston Airport System and the Houston Spaceport to become the first international partner for the city’s commercial spaceport. The MOU states a partnership between the two organisations and the intention to work together in the future.

The announcement was made today as part of a public event where Houston Mayor Annise Parker also announced the creation of a new commercial spaceport in Houston. Representatives from the UK Satellite Applications Catapult, the Federal Aviation Administration, NASA Johnson Space Center, and the Rice Space Institute were all present during the event.

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FAA, CNES Sign Agreement on Commercial Space Launch R&D

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faa_logoPARIS (FAA PR) – U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael P. Huerta and French National Space Agency (CNES) President Jean-Yves Le Gall have signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) to cooperate on research and development related to the safety of private sector orbital space launches and re-entry activities.  The research-related, non-binding arrangement between France and the United States is the first of its kind covering research into commercial orbital space operations.

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Amendment Partially Restores Funding Increase Requested for FAA Commercial Space Office

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Capitol Building
The House has approved an amendment that would partially restore a requested funding increase for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST). The amendment offered by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) would add $250,000 to the office’s budget.

Citing a sharp increase in workloads, the Obama Administration had asked Congress for an additional $1.5 million for Fiscal Year 2016 in order to hire an additional 13 full-time employees for FAA AST. Officials say the plan is to eventually hire 25 full-time staffers.

“FY 2014 was a very busy year for commercial space with a total of 19 licensed or permitted launches. That is more than six times the level of activity that we had in 2012, which only had three licensed or permitted launches,” said FAA-AST Associate Administrator George Nield during the FAA’s 18th Commercial Space Transportation Conference in February.

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House Science Committee Gives Industry What It Wants

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Capitol Building
The commercial space industry had a great day on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, with the Republican-controlled House Science Committee giving it most of what it wanted while swatting away proposed changes from the minority Democrats.

Among the goodies approved by the committee: a decade-long extension of the moratorium on regulating commercial human spaceflight;  a nine-year extension of industry-government cost sharing for damages caused by launch accidents; and an act that would give companies property rights to materials they mine from asteroids.

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Cruz: Senate Commercial Launch Bill Ensures Strong Space Sector

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Sen. Ted Cruz

Sen. Ted Cruz

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Senate Science Committee PR) – Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee Chairman Ted Cruz (R-Texas) released the following statement regarding S. 1297, the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, that he filed with U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) that extends the International Space Station (ISS) until 2024, extends the regulatory moratorium through FY 2020, and ensures stability for the continued development and growth of the U.S. commercial space sector, among other initiatives.

“We are making a commitment to supporting the continued development of a strong commercial space sector with this bill,” said Sen. Cruz. “The U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act provides the International Space Station nearly a decade of certainty by authorizing operations through 2024 and encourages dynamic private sector growth by giving industry the time it needs to foster and develop new technology.”

“We need to make it less cumbersome to launch from Florida’s Space Coast so private companies won’t take their business elsewhere,” said Sen. Nelson. “We need the jobs that come with commercial space ventures.”

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House Measure Would Extend Commercial Spaceflight Learning Period by 8 Years

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Rep. Kevin McCarthy

Rep. Kevin McCarthy

The House Science Committee is set to mark up legislation on Wednesday introduced by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) that would extend the commercial spaceflight learning period for another eight years while requiring a series of progress reports on safety from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The proposed extension to the end of 2023 is three years longer than one in a measure introduced in the Senate. The FAA’s Office of Commercial Spaceflight (FAA AST) wants the moratorium on regulating the industry to expire as scheduled at the end of September.

McCarthy’s Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 (or SPACE Act of 2015) also contains several other key provisions, including the extension of launch liability indemnification cost sharing provisions and a rule change that would allow companies to hold experimental permits and launch licenses simultaneously.

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Rubio Proposes Change to FAA Commercial Space Permitting & Licensing

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Sen. Marco Rubio

Sen. Marco Rubio

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has introduced legislation that would allow companies developing and operating commercial reusable launch vehicles to hold launch licenses and experimental permits simultaneously.

Under current law, a company must give up its FAA-issued experimental permit for a vehicle once it obtains a launch license. Industry officials say this provision prevents them from testing improvements and repairs to existing vehicles as well conducting flight tests on new spacecraft that come off the assembly line.

“The Secretary may issue a permit under this section notwithstanding any license issued under this chapter,” the legislation states. “The issuance of a license under this chapter may not invalidate a permit under this section.”

Rubio introduced Senate Bill 592 in late February. The measure has been read twice and referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.