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.
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.
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.
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.
Former astronaut Pam Melroy and Kathryn Sullivan also named to review teams
Former XPRIZE vice president leads OSTP team
by Douglas Messier Managing Editor
President-elect Joe Biden has appointed former NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan to lead the review team assigned to the space agency.
Stofan, a planetary scientist who became the first female director of the National Air and Space Museum in 2018, leads an eight-member team that includes former NASA astronaut Pam Melroy and former NASA chief scientist Waleed Abdalati.
Biden has also appointed Kathryn Sullivan, who was part of the first group of women recruited as NASA astronauts, to serve on the agency review team for the Department of Commerce.
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.
WOODBINE, Ga., December 17, 2019 (Camden County Commissioners PR) – Camden County is nearing completion of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) process for approval to build a commercial space launch site.
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.
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.
WASHINGTON (DLR PR) — The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and the Office of Commercial Space Transportation of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are seeking to identify the data that may need to be exchanged between United States and European Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) prior to, during and after a space launch or re-entry operation that is initiated in one country and traverses the airspace of another country.
This data exchange should facilitate improved situational awareness, allowing US and European ANSPs to respond as necessary in the event of a vehicle failure. To this end, the FAA and DLR intend to bring together their unique capabilities using FAA’s Commercial Space Integration Lab and DLR’s Air Traffic Validation Center, located in the USA and Germany respectively.
In order to be able to cooperate and exchange data in the future, a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) in the development of commercial space transportation was signed by Pascale Ehrenreund, Chair of the DLR Executive Board, and Wayne R. Monteith, Associate Administrator, Office of Commercial Space Transportation, on 24 October 2019. The signatory ceremony was held at DLR’s stand at the 70th International Astronautical Congress in Washington, DC.
The MoC reflects the excellent collaboration that FAA and DLR have developed since the first Research and Development Cooperative Agreement of both establishments, which was signed in 2010.
The key excerpts are below. I’ve added emphasis to spotlight the key statistics.
Over the past hundred years, commercial aviation has evolved to the extent that, for public transport, operations involving ICAO-certified aircraft achieve a catastrophic failure rate better than 1×10-7. This means that catastrophic failure takes place less than once in every 10 million hours of flight.
In testimony before the House on Thursday, FAA Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation George C. Nield told lawmakers that his agency will need to expand its authority in the years ahead to keep up with the growing private spaceflight sector:
In the coming months and years, it may be necessary to revisit some of the statutes and regulations that govern the commercial space launch activities of the FAA. Specifically, the FAA’s legislative authority may require expansion to ensure public safety in space and on Earth, as the commercial space flight sector evolves. Potentially, there may be a need for greater regulatory authority in the areas of transportation on orbit as well as launch and reentry. In addition, the FAA’s licensing authority may also require revision regarding operations associated with commercial hybrid launch systems and commercial cargo vehicles intentionally returning to Earth, regardless of whether they return substantially intact.
Nield made his remarks while testifying about the FAA’s request for $26.6 million to fund its Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST). The office licenses launches in the United States and oversees safety regulations.
FAA Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation George Nield testified today about the agency’s proposed FY 2012 budget before the House Committee on Science’s Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics. Key highlights from his prepared statement include:
$26.6 million overall budget for the Office of Commercial Space Transportation
103 full-time employees
$1.2 million and 14 full-time positions “to develop and implement additional safety processes and requirements specifically for commercial human spaceflight and the FAA’s efforts to improve spaceflight safety”
$5 million and 50 positions for a new Commercial Spaceflight Technical Center to be located at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida
$5 million for the Low-Cost Access to Space Incentive to award to “the first non-governmental team to develop and demonstrate the capability to launch a 1-kilogram cubesat to orbit using a partially reusable launch system.”
The FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) would get an $11.23 million boost under the President’s proposed FY 2012 budget to enable the agency to oversee the emerging commercial launch market. The budget request also includes a $5 million request for a new Low-Cost Access to Space Incentive program and $1.3 million “to begin development and implementation of safety requirements for commercial human spaceflight.”