FAA to receive launch and reentry flight data from two more companies


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) added two new companies to its Space Data Integrator (SDI) tool, which provides improved situational awareness and helps the FAA safely and efficiently manage air traffic during space operations.  

The agency can now track Virgin Galactic and Sierra Space vehicles in near-real time during their launch and reentry operations. The companies will transmit vehicle telemetry data – such as position, altitude, and speed – to the SDI tool, which helps to increase safety for all airspace users. 

Combined with other tools and procedures, the SDI enables the FAA to reopen airspace as quickly as three minutes after a launch or reentry vehicle safely travels through a designated aircraft hazard area. It also helps the FAA respond if an anomaly occurs. About 70 percent of all commercial space operations in U.S. airspace have shared SDI data with the FAA since the tool became operational in 2021, with that figure expected to grow with the new operators added. 

“The United States has one of the most complex airspaces in the world, with everything from  drones to commercial and general aviation to space launches,” said Tim Arel, Chief Operating Officer of the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization. “The coordination of all that aircraft is improved with more data. We’ve made significant progress in reducing how long airspace is closed for space operations, and the SDI tool is the foundation for future improvements to drive it down even more while also ensuring safety.”  

Virgin Galactic and Sierra Space join SpaceX in sending SDI data to the FAA. The agency expects additional commercial space operators will become SDI operational later this year. 

The FAA integrates FAA-licensed commercial space missions and those that NASA, the U.S. military, and other U.S. government agencies conduct. In 2023, the FAA integrated 130 space operations, up from 27 in 2016. For 2024, that number could approach 200.  Learn more about how the FAA integrates space operations into the National Airspace System. 

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