Nield: FAA Will Need to Expand its Authority Over Commercial Space

In testimony before the House on Thursday, FAA Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation George C. Nield told lawmakers that his agency will need to expand its authority in the years ahead to keep up with the growing private spaceflight sector:

In the coming months and years, it may be necessary to revisit some of the statutes and regulations that govern the commercial space launch activities of the FAA. Specifically, the FAA’s legislative authority may require expansion to ensure public safety in space and on Earth, as the commercial space flight sector evolves. Potentially, there may be a need for greater regulatory authority in the areas of transportation on orbit as well as launch and reentry. In addition, the FAA’s licensing authority may also require revision regarding operations associated with commercial hybrid launch systems and commercial cargo vehicles intentionally returning to Earth, regardless of whether they return substantially intact.

Nield made his remarks while testifying about the FAA’s request for $26.6 million to fund its Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST). The office licenses launches in the United States and oversees safety regulations.