Nine New Members Join FAA’s COMSTAC

WASHINGTON – (FAA PR) — The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is pleased to announce nine new members  for the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC). Secretary Elaine L. Chao approved the nominations along with the re-appointment of 13 members.

Since its inception in 1984, COMSTAC has provided information, advice, and recommendations to the DOT through the FAA about technology, business, and policy issues relevant to overseeing the U.S. commercial space transportation sector.

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New Spinoff Publication Shares How NASA Innovations Benefit Life on Earth

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — As NASA pushes the frontiers of science and human exploration, the agency also advances technology to modernize life on Earth, including drones, self-driving cars and other innovations.

NASA’s diverse missions spur the creation and improvement of thousands of new products that make life better for people around the world. Dozens of the latest examples are featured in the newest edition of NASA’s Spinoff publication, including several examples illustrating how NASA is working to shape the coming revolution of autonomous vehicles on the roads and in the air. 

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NASA to Fund Researchers to Fly on Suborbital Vehicles, Maybe Astronauts

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

After spending a few years in hibernation, the Next-generation Suborbital Researchers Conference (NSRC) is being held in Colorado this week. I wasn’t able to attend this year, but I’ve been following all the action on Twitter.

In a keynote address on Monday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine floated the idea of letting the space agency’s astronauts fly aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard and Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicles. He also discussed certifying the systems to comply with a subset of NASA’s human ratings requirements.

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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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Virgin Galactic: High Losses, Minimal Revenues & A lot of “Registrations of Interest”

A view from inside the cockpit. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Richard Branson’s now publicly traded Virgin Galactic space tourism company had its first quarterly and full year earnings call on Tuesday. You can read the press release here. Below are the key takeaways.

Burning cash: Net losses were nearly $72.8 million for the fourth quarter and $210.9 million for 2019. Net losses for 2018 and 2019 totaled $349.1 million. Total expenditures since 2004 have exceeded $1 billion.

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Experts Say Much More Required to Avoid Satellite Collisions, Space Debris

Space debris

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Senate and House committees held hearings on consecutive days last week about space situational awareness (SSA) and space traffic management (STM), i.e., the ability to accurately track objects in Earth orbit and to avoid dangerous collisions that could knock out satellites and even render entire orbits unusable.

The overall conclusion was that, although progress is being made, we’re not nearly as aware as we need to be as orbital debris poses an ever bigger problem and companies prepare to launch tens of thousands of new satellites.

“Near Earth space is geo-politically contested, it’s commercially contested and it’s in dire need of environmental protection because it is a finite resource,” said Moriba Jah, an associate professor of astronautics at the University of Texas.

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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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GAO: Accelerating Commercial Crew Schedule Poses Risks

Credit: NASA

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s plan to move up the start of operational crew missions to the International Space Station (ISS) by Boeing and SpaceX could pose serious safety risks, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

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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.

Blue Sky Network Receives First FAA Certification for GADSS Compliant Distress Tracking Solution for Commercial Airlines

Blue Sky Network Receives First FAA Certification for GADSS Compliant Distress Tracking Solution for Commercial Airlines

The HawkEye ADT provides airline operation centers full autonomous normal and distress tracking in compliance with ICAO Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System (GADSS) regulations.

SAN DIEGO, CALIF. (Blue Sky Network PR) — Blue Sky Network, an Iridium Satellite Communications partner, today announces the HawkEye ADT has received Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification with an approved model list supplemental type certificate (AML-STC) for Boeing 737 type series. The HawkEye ADT is an autonomous distress tracking device and solution to satisfy ICAO requirements developed in response to high profile aircraft accidents.

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NASA Sponsored Experiment on Board Failed SARGE Launch

A cloud of dirt rises after the impact of the SARGE booster. (Credit Exos Aerospace webcast)


UPHAM, NM (NASA PR) — On Oct. 26, Exos Aerospace launched its SARGE suborbital reusable launch vehicle from Spaceport America, New Mexico, with a NASA Flight Opportunities–supported payload onboard: the University of Central Florida’s Suborbital Particle Aggregation and Collision Experiment-2 (SPACE-2). The flight was aborted 48 seconds after launch due to what the company reported to be a structural failure. 

Exos is in the process of evaluating video and telemetry data from the flight and intends to implement lessons learned from its first three SARGE launches. The company stated in a press release its plans to work closely with the Federal Aviation Administration on a return-to-flight protocol and planned vehicle upgrades in advance of flying again by mid-2020.

Mojave Spaceport Receives $8 Million Grant to Renovate Taxiway

Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Mojave Air and Space Port)

WASHINGTON, DC (Kevin McCarthy PR) — Today, Congressman Kevin McCarthy announced that the Department of Transportation approved an $8 million grant for the Mojave Air and Space Port through the Airport Improvement Program (AIP). Last year, McCarthy sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration in support of Mojave’s grant application. 

“From Stratolaunch to Virgin Orbit, Mojave Air and Space Port is leading the way in civilian aeronautics and commercial spaceflight,” said McCarthy. “But in order to continue to take the next steps towards even greater innovation in the industry, it is vital that Mojave Air and Space Port’s infrastructure is revitalized.

“This AIP grant will help make much needed repairs to existing infrastructure issues – like pavement cracks – to enhance airport safety. I thank Secretary Chao, the Department of Transportation, and the Federal Aviation Administration for recognizing the importance of this project. This grant will undoubtedly help ensure the longevity of this facility for years to come.”

Background

  • The renovation of Taxiway C includes an area 7,200 ft. long and 60 ft. wide. 
  • The project will include an analysis of the airfield electrical system.