Cape Canaveral Spaceport Shuttle Landing Facility Receives FAA Launch Site Operator License

The Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida. (Credit: NASA)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACEPORT, Fla., November 08, 2018 (Space Florida PR) – Today, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space (AST) issued Space Florida a Launch Site Operator License (LSOL) for operations at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF). This landmark license, which is required by any site with multiple users, expands the capabilities of the Cape to multiple horizontal launch and landing customers.

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What The New Yorker Gets Wrong About the SpaceShipTwo Accident

SpaceShipTwo debris in storage. (Credit: NTSB)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Psychologists have identified five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages are clearly on display in Virgin Galactic’s Rocket Man, Nicholas Schmidle’s profile of Mark Stucky in The New Yorker. A substantial part of the story chronicles how the test pilot dealt with the death of his close friend, Mike Alsbury, in the breakup of SpaceShipTwo Enterprise during the vehicle’s fourth powered flight four years ago.

It’s a touching portrait of Stucky’s grief for his fellow Scaled Composites pilot, with whom he had flown while testing the suborbital spacecraft being developed for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. (Stucky later moved over to Virgin, which took over the SpaceShipTwo program after the accident, to test the second SpaceShipTwo, Unity.)

However, Schmidle tells only half the story in his otherwise insightful profile. He places nearly all the blame on Alsbury, while ignoring the findings of a nine-month federal investigation that identified systemic flaws in the development program and the government’s oversight that contributed to the accident.

It’s similar to the flawed, self-serving narrative that Branson used in his latest autobiography, “Finding My Virginity,” complete with a not-entirely-fair jab at the press coverage of the crash. The billionaire uses pilot error to obscure a decade of fatal mistakes and miscalculations.
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Group Sues FAA for Withholding Georgia Spaceport Safety Assessments

Spaceport Camden launch complex (Credit: Camden County)

ATLANTA (SELC PR) — The Southern Environmental Law Center is challenging the Federal Aviation Administration for refusing to disclose important information about the risks of harm to human life and property around a proposed spaceport in Camden County.

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FAA Bill Would Boost Commercial Space Spending

The budget of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST) would more than triple over the next five years according to a re-authorization bill hammered out by House and Senate negotiators.

FAA AST’s current budget of $22.6 million would increase as follows:

  • FY 2019: $33,038,000
  • FY 2020: $43,500,000
  • FY 2021: $54,970,000
  • FY 2022: $64,449,000
  • FY 2023: $75,938,000.

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Mojave Spaceport Accepts $1.36 Million From FAA for Taxiway B Extension

Taxiway B at the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Google Maps)

The Mojave Air and Space Port’s Board of Directors on Tuesday voted to accept a grant totaling $1,364,086 from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for a 600-foot extension of Taxiway B. The grant is larger than the $1.05 million announced by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on Aug. 3.

The board also approved an application to the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) for a matching grant of up to 5 percent of the project’s total. The maximum amount received would be $68,024; however, CalTrans might cap the award at $25,000.

If the full state matching grant is awarded, total outside funding for the project would amount to $1,432,110.

The board also awarded three contracts for the taxiway extension:

  • Granite Construction: $1,099,135
  • RB Development (lighting): $53,263
  • Aviation Striping (painting): $19,085.

Mojave Airport CEO Karina Drees said the grants would pay for a 600-foot extension of the taxiway. The extension would allow for the construction of an additional hangar to the west of Virgin Galactic’s FAITH facility.

The airport hoped to extend the taxiway even further with a turnaround  at the end for aircraft. However, the FAA grant is insufficient to allow for the completion of the taxiway.

Colorado Air and Space Port Receives Spaceport License

BRIGHTON, Colo. (Adams County PR) — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted a site operator license to Colorado Air and Space Port after a 180-day review period, the 11th such license granted in the United States. Colorado Air and Space Port will serve as America’s hub for commercial space transportation, research, and development.

“Facilities like Colorado Air and Space Port will be developed around the country and the world,” said Mary Hodge, chair of the Adams County Board of Commissioners. “We’ll be building a hub that connects Colorado to commercial and research opportunities across the globe.”

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Damphousse Names to FAA COMSTAC

Paul Damphousse

RESTON, Va. (SES PR) – The U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao has appointed SES Government Solutions’ Senior Director of Business Development Paul E. Damphousse to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC), SES announced today.

The COMSTAC provides executive-level observations, findings and recommendations to the FAA Administrator regarding critical issues within the commercial space industry. Damphousse will serve as a senior industry representative and member of COMSTAC on behalf of SES GS, wholly-owned subsidiary of SES, and will advise the government during bi-annual COMSTAC meetings and through participation on the COMSTAC working groups.

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House Measure Boosts FAA Commercial Space & Spaceport Spending

Mojave Air and Space Port (Credit: Douglas Messier)

The FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST) would see its budget more than triple over the next five years while the nation’s spaceports would receive more financial support for infrastructure under a measure passed by the House on Friday.

Under the bill, FAA AST would received just under $22.6 million for fiscal year 2018, with the following increases for the years to follow:

  • FY 2019: $33,038,000
  • FY 2020: $43,500,000
  • FY 2021: $54,970,000
  • FY 2022: $64,449,000
  • FY 2023: $75,938,000.

FAA AST has received only small budget increases in recent years despite experiencing a large increases in its workload as it oversaw the nation’s burgeoning commercial space sector.

Despite the funding stipulated in the reauthorization bill, House and Senate appropriators are not required to fund FAA AST at these levels.

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More Details on SpaceX’s Fairing & Drogue Parachute Recovery Efforts


The FAA’s draft environmental assessment (EA) of SpaceX’s proposal to recover Dragon capsules in the Gulf of Mexico contains several interesting sections detailing the company’s efforts to recover payload fairings and drogue parachute assemblies for the fairings and spacecraft.

The sections are excerpted below. You can read the full report here.
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SpaceX Proposes Recovering Dragon Spacecraft in Gulf of Mexico

Dragon capsule after recovery. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has proposed recovering Dragon spacecraft in the Gulf of Mexico as a contingency option to recovering them in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

“With the introduction of the [commercial crew program], the ability to return crew to Earth in a safe and timely manner is extremely important, particularly in cases where human life or health may be in jeopardy,” according to a draft environmental assessment published by the FAA.

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Astra Space Set to Launch From Alaska

Astra Space is set for the first flight of its new small-satellite launcher on Thursday from Alaska.

The FAA has granted a launch license to the California company for a suborbital flight of Rocket 1 from Launch Pad 2 at the Pacific spaceport Complex — Alaska on Kodiak Island.

A notice to airmen (NOTAM) about the launch has been posted for April 5 at 2000 UTC and ending on April 6 at 0200 UTC (12 to 6 p.m. AKDT /4 to 10 p.m. EDT).

Details are sparse about the company and booster. However, it is believed that the two-stage rocket will be capable of placing a payload weighing up to 100 kg into orbit.

The Alaska Aerospace Corporation, which runs the Kodiak spaceport, has billed the flight as the first of what it hopes will be many commercial launches from the underused facility.

Formerly known as Ventions LLC, Astra Space is operating under a $2 million contract with NASA to develop and flight test a high performance electric pump-fed launch vehicle. The 18-month contract runs through mid-December.

Founded in 2004, the company has been awarded 29 contracts worth nearly $21 million over the past 11 years from NASA, U.S. Air Force, DARPA, Missile Defense Agency and the U.S. Army.

NASA Awards ECLSS & Human Health Small Business Contracts

The space station formerly known as the Deep Space Gateway (Credit: NASA)

NASA has selected 10 projects designed to improve life support systems and human health in space for funding under its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

Nine of the proposals deal with life support and habitation systems with a tenth involves human research and health maintenance. The two-year SBIR Phase II projects are eligible for up to $750,000 in funding.

Improving life support systems are an important area of research as NASA aims at sending astronauts beyond low Earth orbit to the moon and various deep-space destinations.

Below is a list of selected projects followed by their abstracts.

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NASA: Falcon 9 Failure in 2015 Caused by “Design Error”

Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Nearly three years after a SpaceX Falcon 9 failed in flight sending a Dragon resupply ship to the bottom of the Atlantic, NASA has finally released a public summary of its own investigation into the accident. [Public Summary — PDF]

You might recall that SpaceX’s internal accident investigation blamed a defective strut assembly in the second stage liquid oxygen (LOX) tank. The strut, provided by an outside supplier, snapped under launch stresses, causing a helium bottle inside the tank to break free and destroy the LOX tank, the company said.

The NASA investigation found that is a credible scenario for the accident. However, the space agency blamed a “design error” by SpaceX. The table below shows a summary of the investigation’s technical findings.

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FAA Draft Environmental Impact Statement Released for Spaceport Camden

Spaceport Camden (Credit: Camden County)

WOODBINE, Ga., March 9, 2018 (Camden County PR) — Spaceport Camden has achieved its most significant milestone to date with the release of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

The EIS process for Spaceport Camden began in the fall of 2015 and for the last two and a half years, the FAA has been evaluating the environmental impacts of all proposed construction and operational activities, including those from launches of orbital and suborbital vertical launch vehicles and first-stage landings at Spaceport Camden.

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George Nield to Retire from FAA AST

FAA AST’s George Nield

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

George Nield, who has overseen commercial space transportation at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the past decade, will be retiring at the end of March, according to SpacePolicyOnline.com.

In his position as associate administration for the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST), Nield has overseen the granting of launch licenses and experimental permits to Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, Blue Origin, ULA, Orbital ATK and other commercial space companies.

Nield has been credited with as being an effective champion of commercial space since joining FAA AST as deputy associate administrator in 2003. He was elevated to his current position upon the retirement of Patti Grace Smith in 2008.

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