GAO Report: FAA Launch Insurance Update Remains Work in Progress

Members of the 45th Space Wing’s Incident Management Team responded to an explosion Sept. 1, 2016, on Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. (Credit: 45th Space Wing)

The FAA’s effort to update insurance requirements for space launches remains a work in progress that could expose the federal government to excess financial risk, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Under the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015, Congress required the FAA to update the requirements for insurance that private launch providers must purchase for damages to third parties and federal property.  The requirements had not been updated since 1988.

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A Look at Launches in 2016

Atlas V launches the NROL-61 satellite. (Credit: ULA)

Excerpt from

The Annual Compendium of
Commercial Space Transportation: 2017
Federal Aviation Administration
Office of Commercial Space
Transportation (FAA AST)

January 2017

2016 Launch Events

Space launch activity worldwide is carried out by the civil, military, and commercial sectors. This section summarizes U.S. and international orbital launch activities for calendar year 2016, including launches licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST). Countries and jurisdictions worldwide that possess functional and operating indigenous launch industries are the United States, Russia, China, European Union, India, Japan, Israel, Iran, North Korea, and South Korea. Several other countries, including Argentina, Brazil, and Indonesia, are developing launch vehicle technologies.

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Drone Flight Tests FAA’s Technologies for Spacecraft Re-entry

Near Space Corporation launched its balloon borne high-altitude drone from Tillamook, Oregon, carrying a special payload with FAA new technologies on board. (Credit: Near Space Corporation)
Near Space Corporation launched its balloon borne high-altitude drone from Tillamook, Oregon, carrying a special payload with FAA new technologies on board. (Credit: Near Space Corporation)

High-Altitude Drone Tests New Federal Aviation Administration, FAA, surveillance technologies potential to support commercial spacecraft

TILLAMOOK, Ore. (NASA PR) — A drone released from a high-altitude balloon carried a payload to evaluate how the equipment could help the FAA detect and track commercial spacecraft entering the National Air Space, NAS, as it descends from space.

Near Space Corporation, NSC, in Tillamook, Oregon, conducted the flight test on Oct. 3 under the first FAA Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) test site for UAS high-altitude Certificate of Authorization, COA. With that flight, NSC became the first commercial suborbital space company to conduct a flight test under the agency’s UAS rules.

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SpaceX Falcon 9 Return to Flight Set for Monday

Falcon 9 launches the Dragon CRS-9 mission to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)
Falcon 9 launches the Dragon CRS-9 mission to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon 9 booster with 10 Iridium communications satellites on board from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Monday at 10:22 a.m. PST.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has Tweeted that a pre-flight engine firing conducted on Thursday was successful. The FAA also issued a license today for SpaceX to perform the launch. The approval includes

The launch will be the first Falcon 9 flight since a booster caught fire and exploded on the launch pad on Sept. 1. The accident, which SpaceX says was caused by a breach in a second stage helium tank, destroyed the $195 million Amos-6 communications satellite.

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Study Recommends Civilian Agency Take Over Space Traffic Management

In addition to active satellites, a large number of items of debris that originated from collisions, decommissioned satellites or the spent upper stages of launch vehicles are currently in Earth orbit.  Credit: ESA.
In addition to active satellites, a large number of items of debris that originated from collisions, decommissioned satellites or the spent upper stages of launch vehicles are currently in Earth orbit. Credit: ESA.

A report on space traffic management prepared for NASA recommends that the responsibility for tracking satellites and orbital debris be transferred from the Department of Defense (DOD) to a civilian agency, but it does not recommend which one.

The analysis, titled “Orbital Traffic Management,” was done by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) under a NASA contract. Congress ordered the study as part of the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015.

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GAO: Spaceport Operators Confused Over Insurance Requirements

us_spaceports_2016

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) review has found that the nation’s spaceport operators are confused about the insurance they should have for launch accidents.

“Specifically, several spaceport operators GAO interviewed said that, based on their interpretation of the financial responsibility regulations, they were unsure whether their property would be covered under a launch company’s insurance policy or whether they would need to purchase their own insurance for their property to be covered,” the report states.

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GAO Review Recommends FAA Review of Space Support Vehicle Regulations

F-104's in flight. (Credit: Starfighters Aerospace)
F-104’s in flight. (Credit: Starfighters Aerospace)

A review by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has recommended the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) conduct a review of its regulations for space support vehicles used to train space tourists and  conduct reduced gravity experiments.

“The Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOT) should direct the FAA Administrator to fully examine and document whether the FAA’s current regulatory framework is appropriate for space support vehicles and, if not, suggest legislative or regulatory changes, or both, as applicable,” the report states.

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Musk Predicts Falcon 9 Return to Flight in Mid-December

Credit: USLaunchReport.com
Credit: USLaunchReport.com

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told CNBC on Friday that investigators have found the root cause of the fire and explosion that destroyed a Falcon 9 booster on Sept. 1. The company expects to resume launches by the middle of December.

Musk, confirming earlier discussion about the investigation, said the failure involved liquid helium being loaded into bottles made of carbon composite materials within the liquid oxygen tank in the rocket’s upper stage. This created solid oxygen, which Musk previously said could have ignited with the carbon composite materials. However, he did not go into that level of detail in his CNBC comments.
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Second Meeting of the U.S.-China Space Dialogue Conducted

state_dept_logoWASHINGTON (US State Department PR) — Pursuant to their shared goal of advancing civil space cooperation, as agreed upon in the Strategic Track of the U.S. – China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in June 2015 and reaffirmed in June 2016, the United States and China convened their second Civil Space Dialogue on October 20, 2016, in Washington, DC.

This ongoing Civil Space Dialogue enhances cooperation between the two countries, promotes responsible behavior in space, and encourages greater transparency and openness on a variety of space-related issues.

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Congressional Letter Supports SpaceX Firexplanomaly Investigation

Falcon 9 explodes on the launch pad. (Credit: USLaunchReport.com)
Falcon 9 explodes on the launch pad. (Credit: USLaunchReport.com)

Twenty-four members of Congress have written a letter to the administrators of NASA and the FAA and the secretary of the U.S. Air Force supporting the SpaceX-led investigation into the loss of one of the company’s Falcon 9 boosters last month.

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ASTM International to Host Organizational Meeting on Potential Commercial Spaceflight Standards

astm_logoWEST CONSHOHOCKEN, Penn. (ASTM PR) — With support from industry and government leaders, ASTM International will host an organizational meeting to potentially create a new technical committee that develops voluntary consensus standards for commercial spaceflight.

This meeting comes in part as a result of the updated U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015 (CSLCA).  The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) is recommending the organization of the new group.

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FAA Officials Stress Need for Liability Law in Georgia

georgia_state_sealFAA officials were in Georgia this week telling lawmakers the state needs to pass liability laws shielding spaceflight companies from lawsuits from injured passengers and their heirs if it wants to compete with other states.

“In states like Florida and Texas that have a law, that is the statute a federal judge is going to look at,” Dan Murray, a manager with the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, told members of a Georgia House subcommittee exploring a planned commercial spaceport in southeastern Georgia.

The Georgia House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation this year aimed at shielding spaceport operators from civil lawsuits stemming from injuries to civilians who participate in a space flight. But the bill died in the Georgia Senate amid concerns expressed primarily by Georgians with second homes on nearby Cumberland Island and Little Cumberland Island worried about the noise from commercial launches and their potential to pose a safety hazard.

Tuesday’s testimony from Murray and the FAA’s Jared Stout made it clear Georgia needs a liability shield law if the proposed Spaceport Camden is to compete with spaceports in Texas and Florida, said Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, the House bill’s chief sponsor and chairman of the subcommittee.

“These states are trying to make themselves competitive by giving some additional layer of [protection from] liability beyond the federal act,” he said.

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Space Foundation Praises FAA Decisions on Virgin Galactic, Moon Express

space_foundation_logoCOLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Aug. 3, 2016) – The Space Foundation today voiced its strong support for two important commercial space regulatory milestones:

  • On July 29, the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (OCST) issued a license to Virgin Galactic for its SpaceShipTwo suborbital spaceplane, enabling the company to resume flight tests, from Mojave Air & Space Port, Calif., leading toward commercial suborbital space flights.
  • Today, it was announced that the U.S. Government has cleared the way for California-based Moon Express to send a spacecraft beyond Earth orbit, to land on the moon, in 2017. To date, no commercial company has conducted a mission beyond Earth orbit. This has long been solely the territory of government space programs.

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CSF Congratulates Moon Express on License Announcement

CSF_logo2WASHINGTON, D.C. (CSF PR) – The Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) congratulates Moon Express, Inc., on its U.S. government authorization for a planned robotic mission to the Moon in 2017. This is the first time that a private enterprise has been licensed by the U.S. Government to venture to the lunar surface.

Moon Express first filed the application with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on April 8, 2016. The company then consulted extensively with the FAA, White House, State Department, NASA and other federal agencies before being granted the landmark license. The formal approval sets a precedent for the private sector to engage in peaceful space exploration in accordance with U.S. national obligations of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.

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U.S. Government Approves Moon Express Lunar Landing

Bob Richards, co-founder and CE) of Moon Express Inc., of Moffett Field, California, speaks to the media Nov. 3 at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility. To the left of Richards is Greg Chavers, Lander Technologies project manager at Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. (Credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky)
Bob Richards, co-founder and CE) of Moon Express Inc., of Moffett Field, California, speaks to the media Nov. 3 at Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility. To the left of Richards is Greg Chavers, Lander Technologies project manager at Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. (Credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Moon Express PR) — For the first time in the history of space travel, a private enterprise will leave this world to explore another

The U.S. Government has made a historic ruling to allow the first private enterprise, Moon Express, Inc. (MoonEx), permission to travel beyond Earth’s orbit and land on the Moon in 2017. This breakthrough U.S. policy decision provides authorization to Moon Express for a maiden flight of its robotic spacecraft onto the Moon’s surface, beginning a new era of ongoing commercial lunar exploration and discovery, unlocking the immense potential of the Moon’s valuable resources.

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