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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FAA: Serious Concerns About Spaceport Camden Safety, Lack of Information

A review of emails indicates the FAA has serious safety concerns about the proposed Spaceport Camden in Georgia that have been worsened difficulties getting information from Camden County. WABE reports:

In multiple emails obtained through open records requests by the Southern Environmental Law Center, FAA staff expressed concern about how Camden’s originally proposed launches could be safe enough for the population beneath its proposed rocket trajectories, which would cross over two barrier islands. And up until at least October, the county had not alleviated those concerns….

Eighty-three families own land and private homes on Little Cumberland, roughly 5 miles east of the proposed launch pad, and many have consistently voiced concerns about how a spaceport launch could safely happen over the island. Cumberland Island next door also has private residences and is largely controlled by the National Park Service as a protected National Seashore.

FAA staff also pointed out the plan to launch so close to overflight populations was unprecedented for the country’s vertical launch spaceports.

In an internal summary of the Camden project from 2017, FAA aerospace engineer Katie Branham wrote that “individual risk and overflight of Little Cumberland Island has been a problem from the very beginning.”

A group of island homeowners have strongly opposed the spaceport on safety reasons.

In a press release, Camden County officials claimed WABE’s report was erroneous.

Camden County is concerned with reports characterizing the FAA as struggling to get safety information from Camden County.  This is not the case.  First, Camden County sent its full flight safety analysis to the FAA in April 2017 and took the unprecedented step of publicly releasing an ITAR compliant version of its Flight Safety Analysis in 2019. Second, the actual emails released from the FAA in response to FOIA show that the FAA repeatedly calculated that Camden County could meet the regulatory thresholds with hundreds of people on Little Cumberland Island. Further, these emails demonstrate that the FAA explored opportunities with Camden County to ensure compliance with the FAA’s requirements.

FAA had planned to release a final environmental impact statement on the application earlier this week. However, last week Camden County amended its application, requiring the FAA to continue the review process.

The original application requested permission to launch up to 12 medium or large rockets per year with a dozen first stage landings. The modification requested approval for small launch vehicles with no landings.

Camden County Alters FAA Application for Spaceport

Spaceport Camden launch complex (Credit: Camden County)

The FAA has delayed the release of the final environmental impact statement on the proposed Spaceport Camden in Georgia after Camden County amended its application last week. The release had been scheduled for Monday. Dec. 16.

“On Dec. 14, 2019, Camden County notified the FAA that it was amending its launch site operator license application,” a FAA spokesperson said. “This amendment requires the FAA to conduct new analyses to address the fundamental changes to the application, and the FAA has agreed to toll its review of Camden’s license application per Camden County’s request.”

The original application requested approval to conduct orbital and suborbital vertical launches and landings of medium and large rockets.

“Launch operations would include preparatory activities to ready and test launch vehicles and systems, including up to 12 vertical launches and up to 12 associated launch vehicle first-stage landings per year,” the spokesperson said.

“This amendment removes the request for a medium-to-large rocket with return to a small rocket with no return,” she added.