FAA, Department of the Air Force sign commercial space agreement
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of the Air Force signed an agreement aimed at eliminating red tape while protecting public safety during commercial space activities at ranges operated by the U.S. Space Force.
The agreement recognizes common safety standards for FAA-licensed launch and reentry activities that occur on, originate from, or return to Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida and Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. It also removes duplicative processes and approvals for the U.S. commercial space sector.
“Assured access to space is vital to our national security,” said Acting Secretary of the Air Force John P. Roth. “The launch licensing standards provided in the agreement will support a rapidly expanding commercial launch sector and strengthen our space industrial base, bolstering our economy and enhancing our security as a nation.”
“Building a streamlined regulatory approach for commercial space activities at these federal launch sites is the right thing to do for public safety and U.S. competitiveness,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. “This agreement will help the burgeoning U.S. commercial space industry grow even faster and continue to lead the world in safety and innovation.”
Under the agreement, the FAA will accept the Department of the Air Force’s ground safety rules and other safety processes, analyses, and products as long as they satisfy FAA regulations. The Department of the Air Force will accept FAA licensing decisions and generally will not impose its own requirements for the flight portion of a launch or reentry.
In addition, the two agencies will consult before responding to commercial space operator requests for relief from safety requirements and on the development of hazard areas. Both also will coordinate prior to publication of materials related to ground safety and launch or reentry activities and collaborate on environmental reviews to ensure the government’s response is prompt and consistent.
The two ranges each have four FAA-licensed commercial space transportation companies authorized to conduct launch operations. In 2020, the FAA licensed 39 commercial space launches, the most in the agency’s history. Of those, 24 occurred at, and were supported by, these two U.S. Space Force ranges. To learn more about the FAA’s role and responsibilities in commercial space transportation, please listen to the Ticket to Space episode of the agency’s The Air Up There podcast.