Draft Safety Practices for Commercial Spaceflight Participants Under Discussion

faa_logoSpace News reports on a draft report on safety practices for keeping commercial spaceflight participants safe:

In an attempt to forestall congressional direction of the process, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation has produced a 50-page list of safety practices that could serve as the cornerstone for future commercial human spaceflight safety regulations.

Formally known as “Draft Established Practices for Human Space Flight Occupant Safety,” the document is the result of information gathering that began last year when FAA officials started sitting in on monthly conference calls with the agency’s industry-led Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC). On these calls, representatives of commercial spaceflight companies discussed areas of their businesses that would be ripe for regulation, once the FAA is allowed to begin rulemaking in about two years.

Under the Commercial Space Launch Act of 2004, the FAA may set rules to protect the uninvolved public from commercial spaceflight activities, such as launches, but it may not regulate industry participants until October 2015 unless there is a catastrophic accident before then. New Mexico-based Virgin Galactic, which aims to fly paying customers to the edge of space, is now poised to begin operations in 2014. If that schedule holds, the FAA would have about a year to study one commercial human spaceflight operation before it could begin writing rules for the entire industry.

Members of Congress and their staff have made it clear, however, that the FAA and aspiring commercial spaceflight companies should not wait until the last minute to begin a safety dialogue.

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