House Science Committee Chairwoman Johnson and Ranking Member Lucas Urge Biden to Rescind Proposal to Give Authority Over Commercial Space Accidents

SpaceShipTwo fuselage. (Credit: NTSB)

WASHINGTON (House Science Committee PR) – Today, Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) sent a letter [see below] to President Biden expressing their concerns regarding the Administration’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for commercial space accident investigation that was issued by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).


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.


The Federation Urges Congress to Quickly Pass Commercial Space Act

CSF_logo2CSF President Eric Stallmer released the following statement calling on Congress to quickly pass H.R. 2262, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act:

“CSF applauds the House and Senate negotiators for the tremendous work and effort they put into crafting the bipartisan, bicameral U.S Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (H.R. 2262). When the CSLA was updated 11 years ago, Congress codified a regulatory regime that led to an unparalleled level of investment, innovation, and economic growth in the commercial space industry. This new legislation sets the stage for the continued growth and expansion of this industry, while enabling rapid advances in safety.  It incentivizes further investments in innovation and the development of spaceflight capabilities that will benefit all Americans.  For these reasons, and many more, CSF calls on Congress to quickly pass H.R. 2262, the bipartisan bill that will ensure that America remains the leader in space.”

Registration Still Open for 18th FAA Commercial Space Conference in DC

faa_logo18th Annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference
Wednesday, February 04, 2015 7:30 AM –
Thursday, February 05, 2015 5:00 PM (Eastern Time)

National Housing Center
1201 15th Street, NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20005
United States

For the latest information and dialogue on U.S. commercial launch activities, commercial human spaceflight, commercial crew, and commercial spaceports, join us in Washington, DC at the National Housing Center for the 18th Annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference. The conference will take place on February 4th and 5th, 2015, and includes the opportunity to meet and network with key federal officials from DOT, NASA, and DOD, industry leaders, space entrepreneurs, international space partners, legislators, astronauts, educators, and space enthusiasts. This is the premier event for information about the FAA’s role and the future direction of commercial space transportation.

Register Here

FAA Proposes Changes to Risk Assessment for Commercial Launches, Reentries

faa_logoThe FAA has proposed changing the way it calculates collective risk limits for commercial launches and reentries. A brief summary is reproduced below. For more information, visit the entry in the Federal Register.

Notice Of Proposed Rulemaking


The FAA proposes to amend the collective risk limits for commercial launches and reentries. Under this proposal, the FAA would separate its expected-number-of-casualties (E c) limits for launches and reentries. For commercial launches, the FAA proposes to aggregate the E c posed by the following hazards: Impacting inert and explosive debris, toxic release, and far field blast overpressure. The FAA proposes to limit the aggregate E c for these three hazards to 1 × 10 4. For commercial reentries, the FAA proposes to aggregate the E c posed by debris and toxic release, and set that E c under an aggregate limit of 1 × 10 4. Under the FAA’s proposal, the aggregate E c limit for both launch and reentry would be expressed using only one significant digit.

The FAA also proposes to clarify the regulatory requirements concerning hazard areas for ships and aircraft. The proposed rule would require a launch operator to establish a hazard area where the probability of impact does not exceed: 0.000001 (1 × 10 6) for an aircraft; and 0.00001 (1 × 10 5) for a water-borne-vessel.

NASA Announces Partnership Opportunities for U.S. Commercial Lunar Lander Capabilities

Artist's conception of a Bigelow lunar habitat. (Credit: Bigelow Aerospace)
Artist’s conception of a Bigelow lunar habitat. (Credit: Bigelow Aerospace)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Building on the progress of NASA’s partnerships with the U.S. commercial space industry to develop new spacecraft and rockets capable of delivering cargo, and soon, astronauts to low Earth orbit, the agency is now looking for opportunities to spur commercial cargo transportation capabilities to the surface of the moon.

NASA has released an announcement seeking proposals to partner in the development of reliable and cost-effective commercial robotic lunar lander capabilities that will enable the delivery of payloads to the lunar surface. Such capabilities could support commercial activities on the moon while enabling new science and exploration missions of interest to NASA and the larger scientific and academic communities.


Great Discussion on Bloomberg TV About SpaceX, Commercial Space

Video Caption: Dec. 4 (Bloomberg) –- On today’s “Regnomix,” Former NASA Astronaut Leroy Chiao, Space Adventures President Tom Shelley and Bloomberg’s Cory Johnson discuss Spacex’s successful launch of a satellite and the future of private space travel. They speak with Trish Regan and Adam Johnson on Bloomberg Television’s “Street Smart.” (Source: Bloomberg)

EDITOR’S NOTE: An interesting little revelation here that SpaceX is not profitable, but it is cash flow positive. This is something I have long wondered about. The relatively small number of launches plus a large surge in the number of employees has left me puzzled about how the company funds its operations. NASA funding has helped with commercial crew and cargo. So has taking deposits on a large number of future satellite launches. There’s also probably been some additional private investment.

The other part is keeping costs low. SpaceX employees work brutal hours; 50 to 70+ hours per week seems to be normal there. The company also hires a number of long-term temporary workers who work the same type of hours but received none of the benefits of full-time employees. No health coverage, no vacation or sick days, no stock options. All this is pretty normal for Silicon Valley, whose culture Musk has imported into SpaceX. However, this type of work schedule also results in burn-out and higher turnover rates. One wonders how long they can sustain it.

Witt to Congress: Extend Learning Period, Revise ITAR and Make Indemnification Permanent

Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stu Witt (Credit: Bill Deaver)
Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stu Witt (Credit: Bill Deaver)

In testimony before the House Subcommittee on Space on Wednesday, Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stu Witt urged legislators to extend the “learning period” for new space systems to eight years, remove suborbital tourism vehicles from the ITAR list, and to make permanent the risk-sharing launch indemnification in which the government covers damages from private space missions above a certain level.

“This industry needs regulatory certainty,” Witt said in his prepared remarks. “But the learning period restriction on unsubstantiated safety regulations expires in less than two years and the risk-sharing (indemnification) regime expires at the end of next month. That regulatory uncertainty is difficult for many companies. I ask Congress to make Indemnification permanent, and also extend the Learning Period to a full eight years of R&D and operational flights to provide regulatory certainty to firms developing passenger carrying vehicles.”


Stu Witt, Dennis Tito to Testify at House Space Subcommittee Hearing

Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stu Witt (Credit: Bill Deaver)
Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stu Witt (Credit: Bill Deaver)

Mojave Air and Space Port General Manager and CEO Stu Witt will testify along with space tourist and Inspiration Mars Chairman Dennis Tito at a House Space Subcommittee hearing concerning commercial space on Wednesday.

Patricia Cooper, president of the Satellite Industry Association, will join Witt and Tito on the hearing’s second panel.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), whose district includes the Mojave spaceport, will be on the first panel.

The hearing will be webcast live beginning at 10 a.m. EST.

Subcommittee on Space Hearing –  Commercial Space
Subcommittee on Space
2318 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515
Nov 20, 2013 10:00am


Panel I

  • The Honorable Kevin McCarthy, Member, Majority Whip, U.S. House of Representatives

Panel II

  • Ms. Patricia Cooper, President, Satellite Industry Association
  • Mr. Stuart Witt, CEO and General Manager, Mojave Air and Space Port
  • Mr. Dennis Tito, Chairman, Inspiration Mars Foundation

NASA Announces Effort to Form New Collaborative Partnerships with Private Space Industry

NASA LOGOWASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA officials Wednesday released a synopsis requesting information from U.S. private enterprises interested in pursuing unfunded partnerships. The aim is to advance the development of commercial space products and services.

The Collaborations for Commercial Space Capabilities synopsis describes a potential opportunity for existing and new companies and non-profit organizations to access NASA’s spaceflight expertise for mutually beneficial space exploration goals.


Risk Issues Remain Unresolved as Space Tourism Nears Liftoff

Lloyds_of_London_logoVia Lloyd’s
Reprinted by Permission

Space is the final frontier for hundreds of high net worth individuals seeking the ultimate tourist thrill. However, as industry delegates to a symposium held at Lloyd’s heard, some risk issues remain unresolved.

Suborbital flight – flying higher than 100km above sea level – will soon be a reality for anyone willing and able to pay thousands of pounds for a ticket. There are plenty of people already queuing for the privilege of being among the first 1,000 humans to experience space travel.


Golden Spike Company to Lay Private Tracks for Human Moon Missions

The moon rising over Half Moon Bay, California on Halloween 2009. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

A new private effort focused on getting humans back to the moon by 2020 appears to be led by a Colorado start-up called Golden Spike Company, according to published reports.

S. Alan Stern, the former NASA science chief who now works for the Southwest Research Institute, is the registered agent for the company, which is identified as a foreign corporation in Colorado state records., which first broke the news earlier this week, reports that “the effort is led by a group of high profile individuals from the aerospace industry and backed by some big money and foreign investors”. The company plans to make a formal announcement in December.


Sensenbrenner, Rohrabacher Vie With Smith to Lead House Science Committee

Jim Sensenbrenner

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

With the elections over, the race to succeed Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) as chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. On Thursday, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) both formally threw their hats into the ring in a race that also includes Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX).

Hall, who has been a major critic of the Obama Administration’s commercial space push, is leaving his chairmanship because he is term limited under Republican House rules to serving six years in the position.

Rohrabacher has been a major proponent of commercializing spaceflight and has backed the Obama Administration’s efforts in this area. He also has been a major proponent of more oil and gas drilling and a skeptic of global warming, positions that he shares with Smith and Sensenbrenner.


House Appropriators Approve FAA Commercial Space Office Full Budget Request

The flight of the Dragon seems to have had some impact in Congress. House appropriators have decided to provide the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation its full budget request of $16.7 million for FY 2013. The appropriations bill contains a short explanation for the decision.

The Committee recommends $16,700,000 for the office of commercial space transportation, which is equal to the budget request and $429,000 above the fiscal year 2012 enacted level.

The Office of Commercial Space Transportation protects public safety through regulatory oversight of the rapidly growing U.S. commercial space transportation industry. The FAA also has a statutory mandate to encourage, facilitate, and promote commercial space transportation. The commercial space transportation industry is nearly certain to increase its activities providing orbital and suborbital services to serve commercial, scientific, and government purposes. Of particular importance are orbital flights to support the operation of the International Space Station. This increase in commercial space activity will require the FAA to provide a significantly greater number of permits and licenses. The Committee wishes to ensure that the FAA has the ability to provide these permits and licenses effectively and efficiently so that the U.S. can emerge as the world leader in space transport. The Committee will encourage a reprogramming of funds to the Office of Commercial Space Transportation above the levels provided, if necessary to keep pace with this growing industry.


Spaceflight Inc. Signs USAF Contract for Commercial Launches

Seattle, WA – April 30, 2012 — Spaceflight Inc. (Spaceflight) announced today that it has signed a contract with the USAF Space Development and Test Directorate to fly up to two government spacecraft on commercial launch vehicles.

The United States Air Force’s Space Development and Test Directorate has contracted with Spaceflight to evaluate commercial launch options for, and potentially conduct commercial launch and orbit insertion operations of, the STP Satellite-3 (STPSat-3) and Kestrel Eye Tactical Imaging Spacecraft (Kestrel Eye) spacecraft.