FAA Wants to Ramp Up Commercial Space Office, Launch Incentive Program

The FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) would get an $11.23 million boost under the President’s proposed FY 2012 budget to enable the agency to oversee the emerging commercial launch market. The budget request also includes a $5 million request for a new Low-Cost Access to Space Incentive program and $1.3 million “to begin development and implementation of safety requirements for commercial human spaceflight.”

According to FAA budget documents:

“The request of $26.63 million and 103 FTE allows AST to ensure protection of public, property, and the national security and foreign policy interest of the United States during commercial space launch or entry activities and to encourage, facilitate and promote U.S. commercial space transportation.

“The request includes base funding of $15.4 million plus programmatic increases of $11.23 million and 32 FTE to develop and implement additional safety processes and requirements specifically for commercial human spaceflight and space traffic management as well as incentivize advancements in low-cost access to space.

“Key outputs of the request include a projected 6 license and permit applications, 40 launch or reentry operations inspections, 8 launch site inspections, 5 environmental assessments, plus new rulemaking products and the Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation.”

The $5 million prize competition would “establish a program for incentivizing advancements in space transportation by non-government organizations. This Low-Cost Access to Space Incentive program would challenge industry to develop and demonstrate technologies that meet specific criteria defined in consultation with the relevant stakeholders.”

The FAA is establishing a new Commercial Spaceflight Technical Center at the Kennedy Space Center.

“The Technical Center will provide safety and technical support for future commercial space launch activities and support the continued development of safety processes, standards, and regulations for commercial spaceflight. Our FY 2012 request allows us to hire 50 personnel (25 FTE) for the Technical Center in FY 2012 with the remaining 25 FTE annualized in FY 2013.”