Former Top Federal Regulator to Fly on Unregulated Spaceship

Jeff Bezos pins Blue Origin astronaut wings on actor William Shatner. (Credit: Blue Origin webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The first three passenger flights of Blue Origin’s New Shepard have been long on symbolism. On the first one, Jeff Bezos invited Wally Funk, who in 1960 was one of 13 women who underwent the same medical checks as the Original Seven Mercury astronauts. NASA wasn’t accepting female pilots at the time, so Funk had to wait 51 years to reach space.

New Shepard’s second flight included starship Capt. James T. Kirk, or more precisely, the actor who played the “Star Trek” captain, William Shatner. The third flight had Laura Shepard Churchley, the daughter of America’s first astronaut to fly to space, who launched aboard a vehicle named after her father, Alan.

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Saturday Night Live Star Pete Davidson, Dr. George Nield to Fly on Blue Origin’s 20th Mission

New Shepard takes off with six passengers on Dec. 11, 2021. (Credit: Blue Origin website)

KENT, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — Blue Origin today announced the crew flying on its upcoming NS-20 flight on March 23 will include Marty Allen, Pete Davidson, husband and wife duo Sharon and Marc Hagle, Jim Kitchen, and Dr. George Nield. 

This mission is the fourth human flight for the New Shepard program and the 20th in its history.  

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FAA Decides Bezos, Branson and Shatner Are Astronauts After All

  • Everyone who exceeds 50 miles by Dec. 31 will receive commercial astronaut wing even if they were just passengers
  • Nobody after that will even if they pilot a ship
  • Agency reverses earlier decision to award wings only to those essential to flight operations/success
  • FAA says this is what was intended all along

WASHINGTON (FAA PR) – With the advent of the commercial space tourism era, starting in 2022, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will now recognize individuals who reach space on its website instead of issuing Commercial Space Astronaut Wings. Any individual who is on an FAA-licensed or permitted launch and reaches 50 statute miles above the surface of the Earth will be listed on the site. 

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FAA Issues RFI for University Teams to Conduct Space Industry Research

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) is looking for information about industry teams capable of conducting research into specific space industry segments.

FAA AST issued a request for information (RFI) for university teams to “conduct research activities of historical event data collection and analysis (including single-case and cross-case studies)” for the following segments:

  • orbital launch vehicles for high payload masses (including human orbital transportation)
  • on-orbit capsules
  • on-orbit habitats.
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FAA Opens Houston Space Safety Office to Increase Oversight of Texas and New Mexico Operations

WASHINGTON (FAA PR) – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) opened a safety field office in Houston to increase its oversight of commercial space operations in Texas and New Mexico.

From this location, FAA inspectors will be able to more effectively and efficiently monitor the ongoing testing programs and commercial space tourism operations of SpaceX and Blue Origin in Texas and Virgin Galactic in New Mexico, along with others in the region.

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New FAA Launch & Reentry Regulations Go into Effect

WASHINGTON (FAA PR) — The United States is leading the way to a new era of commercial space transportation with a final rule that streamlines the licensing process for private sector launch and reentry operations.

“Innovation in commercial space transportation is increasing dramatically, and policy needs to keep up. This rule will help us to prepare for future U.S. leadership in commercial space transportation by facilitating the continued economic growth and innovation of the American aerospace industry and ensuring the highest level of public safety,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

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NASA to Host Virtual Symposium Exploring Rise of Commercial Space

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — From activities in low-Earth orbit to NASA’s Artemis  program, the commercial space industry has emerged as an innovator in areas of space access, commerce, and exploration. In an effort to address the growth of commercial space over the past decades and inform the relationship between government and industry for the future, NASA will host a virtual event Wednesday, March 17, through Friday, March 19, with a final session Thursday, March 25.

NASA and the Rise of Commercial Space: A Symposium Examining the Definition(s) and Context(s) of Commercial Space will address such topics as legal and entrepreneurial frameworks, advancements during the space shuttle era, and new trajectories, while examining the historical context surrounding questions such as “How will humanity explore the Moon and Mars?” and, more fundamentally, how to define commercial space.

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Ozmens’ SNC Dream Chaser® Spaceplane Closer to Commercial Runway Landing

Dream Chaser lands (Credit: NASA)

SPARKS, Nev. February 8, 2021 (SNC PR) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the global aerospace and national security company owned by Eren and Fatih Ozmen, is a step closer to landing the world’s first commercial spaceplane on U.S. soil. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) awarded the re-entry site license to Cape Canaveral Spaceport Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) in Florida at request of the state’s aerospace economic development agency, making it the first commercially licensed re-entry site. Dream Chaser, America’s Spaceplane®, will service the International Space Station (ISS) under a NASA contract in 2022; the vehicle will return from the ISS to a runway landing for the first time since NASA’s space shuttle program ended in 2011.

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FAA Holding Public Scoping Period for SpaceX Boca Chica Environmental Assessment

Starship SN8 takes off from Boca Chica, Texas. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

SpaceX Boca Chica Launch Site Scoping Period
FAA Announcement

The FAA is holding a public scoping period to assist the FAA in determining the scope of issues for analysis in the draft environmental assessment (EA). As a part of the public scoping period, the FAA requests public comments. More information about providing public comments can be found at the end of this email.

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Supersonic & Hypersonic Civilian Transport Projects in Development

Overture supersonic passenger jet (Credit: Boom Supersonic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Boom Supersonic’s recent rollout of its XB-1 supersonic demonstrator aircraft marked a milestone in an accelerating race to revive an era of civilian supersonic travel that ended when the Concorde jetliner was retired in 2003.

XB-1, aka Baby Boom, is set to begin flight tests next year from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The Mach 2.2 (2,717 km/h, 1,688 mph) vehicle is the precursor to Boom’s 55-seat Overture airliner, which is scheduled to begin carrying passengers in 2029.

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Space Perspective to Fly People and Payloads to the Edge of Space

View of the capsule at altitude. (Credit: Space Perspective)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (Space Perspective PR) – Space Perspective today announced its plans to fly passengers and research payloads to the edge of space with its Spaceship Neptune, a high-performance balloon and pressurized capsule.

The human space flight company plans to launch from the iconic Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, with the first un-crewed test flight scheduled in early 2021 that will include a suite of research payloads.

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SpaceX Could Launch 70 Times From Florida in 2023

Mobile service tower surrounding Falcon Heavy booster. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX would be launching up to 70 times annually from Florida by 2023, including polar orbit launches that are not currently conducted from the Sunshine State.

Elon Musk’s rocket company is also planning to construct a mobile service tower (MST) to support commercial and national security launches from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

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FAA Commercial Space Office Would Get Boost Under Proposed Budget

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Federal Aviation Administration Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST) would receive a 6 percent boost under the Trump Administration’s proposed fiscal year 2021 budget.

However, the FAA’s overall spending on space would drop by 13.85 percent from $51.54 million to $44.4 million.

FAA AST’s budget would be boosted by from $26.04 million to $27.60, an increase of $1.56 million. The office licenses launches, reentries and spaceports.

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FAA Concerned Georgia Spaceport Could Kill Residents, Burn Down Islands

Spaceport Camden launch complex (Credit: Camden County)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Camden County is facing a series of significant challenges in winning FAA approval to build a spaceport for vertical launches in the coastal Georgia county. At the root of the county’s problems: the launch site isn’t actually on the coastline.

“Camden County’s application includes populated areas within an overflight exclusion zone. Camden County has not demonstrated that it can control and manage the population in the vicinity of the proposed launch site, particularly on Little Cumberland Island,” according to a letter the FAA sent to county officials on Oct. 17.

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