The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration should work to get the international community to adopt its largely hands-off regulatory approach toward the developing commercial launch and space tourism markets, a key oversight group was told last month.
John Sloan of the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation told the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) that it is in America’s best interest to promote the agency’s approach worldwide. In his presentation, he said it is:
Will Oberstar kill the NewSpace industry?
The Space Review
“Small NewSpace companies have no reason to be complacent. If the published rumors are correct and Jim Oberstarâ€”the Congressman from Minnesota whose proposal a few years ago to regulate the safety of the space tourism industry as if it were the airline industry failed to gain any traction in the Houseâ€”becomes Secretary of Transportation, there will be trouble. Suborbital space tourism as it is currently being promoted by Virgin Galactic, XCOR Aerospace, and others, is in its infancy. The first flights of SpaceShipTwo or the Lynx have not yet taken place, but few serious observers doubt that it is going to be a moneymaker for those involved. If, and it is a big if, the government regulates it with a light hand.”
The New Space blogosphere is buzzing over what the Obama Administration might do in terms of regulating commercial spaceflight. Will the new government follow Bush’s hands off, deregulatory approach – which requires only that millionauts sign a waiver acknowledging the risks – or will it demand that the FAA to certify space tourism vehicles before they fly passengers?
Nobody knows yet. Most of the NewSpace folks are hoping for the former. They believe that imposing regulations would kill the nascent industry at birth. Better to return to the early days of aviation, when bold inventors and their brave passengers took risks and the government stayed out. Innovate now, regulate later.
But, is this really the right approach? I’m not so sure.
MarsDrive has an interview with space tourist and entrepreneur Anousheh Ansari. She described her flight to the International Space Station, waxed enthusiastically about the future of space tourism, and called on governments to loosen regulations on space tourism companies.
“Cost is definitely an inhibitor at this time,” Ansari admits. “We need established, sustainable businesses in the private industry using space flights to bring down the per flight cost.
“Also the regulatory and insurance requirements is another hindrance for the industry. I think we need new technology to be able to lower the cost of orbital flights. There should be greater collaboration between private industries and the regulatory bodies to be able to come up industry friendly regulation that will at the same time encourage passenger safety,” she added.
Most of her comments make sense, but the regulatory one is curious. At least in the United States, it seems that the commercial space industry has gotten more or less everything it has wanted from the industry friendly, anti-regulation Bush Administration and several states vying for its business.