FAA Learning Period for Spaceflight Regulation Extended Though 2015
Washington D.C. – The Commercial Spaceflight Federation welcomes Congress’s passage yesterday of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, which includes a key provision granting regulatory stability to the commercial spaceflight industry.
The new law’s provision extends a regulatory “learning period” that was created when Congress originally passed the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act (CSLAA) of 2004. This learning period was established in law in December of 2004 to allow for several years of flight test and early commercial operation of new human spaceflight vehicles. Congress’s intent was to allow for industry and the FAA to build a database from actual flight experience of what design features, technologies, and operating practices contributed to safety, and initially regulate only those system elements in which safety issues arise.
The Federation extends its thanks to Senate Majority Leader Reid, Chairman Rockefeller, Chairman Cantwell, Chairman Nelson, and Ranking Member Hutchison, as well as House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, Chairman Mica, Chairman Petri, Chairman Hall, Chairman Palazzo, Ranking Member Costello, and Representative Rohrabacher for their assistance in reaching this agreement.
Eric Anderson, Chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, said, “Yesterday marks a major milestone for the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. Two of the Federation’s objectives are to ‘promote the development of commercial human spaceflight’ and ‘pursue ever-higher levels of safety’. Congress’s action this week will accomplish both of these objectives, by allowing the FAA to continue a wide range of regulatory activities and to act as a conduit for industry cooperation, while still enabling innovation and entrepreneurship. This will help initiate a new wave of job creation and private investment in the industry.”
“The commercial space flight industry is already having a profound economic impact, and this action ensures that it can keep on innovating and creating jobs,” said Congressman Kevin McCarthy. “This industry has boomed over the past several years in part because of smart policy that tempered government overregulation. And from SpaceShipOne to XCOR, Masten Space Systems and the impressive increase in commercial space flight investment and jobs at the Mojave Air & Space Port in my district over the past ten years, it is clear that great things can happen when government gets out of the way of innovation. By extending the learning period, we’re opening the door for continued growth and job creation, while also helping keep America at the forefront of space travel and exploration. I look forward to seeing what comes next from this burgeoning industry.”
“This provision resolves regulatory uncertainty that was slowing investment and job creation in the commercial spaceflight industry, while encouraging full cooperation between government and industry to advance safety.” said Alexander Saltman, Executive Director of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. “This provision keeps the industry on a path similar to the initial pioneering days of aviation, in which airplane designers were able to innovate and pursue differing approaches that continued to move the industry forward while rapidly developing safety improvements. Safety is the highest priority for the commercial space industry; this includes both the safety of the pioneering customers and all those who follow.”
“This provision in no way prevents any government agency from setting requirements for missions for which it is a customer. The commercial space industry already works closely with both NASA and FAA to ensure the safety of the Commercial Crew Program, and looks forward to continuing that cooperation with both agencies.”
The CSLAA created an eight-year learning period, ending December 23, 2012, but given the diligence the industry is taking to carefully develop its first generation of operational vehicles, there has not been any data from licensed or permitted human flights to date. In this FAA reauthorization, Congress has extended the original deadline nearly three years, to October 1, 2015, the full duration of the underlying legislation.
Under the reauthorization bill, the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation retains all of its current regulatory authority–including the ability to ensure the safety of the uninvolved public, oversee an “informed consent” regime for spaceflight participants who willingly accept the risk, establish vehicle regulations based on data from experimental or operational flight incidents within the period, and conduct research on methods for improving spaceflight safety. The bill also encourages the agency to actively work with industry to discuss and distribute safety information and best practices.
About the Commercial Spaceflight Federation
The mission of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) is to promote the development of commercial human spaceflight, pursue ever-higher levels of safety, and share best practices and expertise throughout the industry. The Commercial Spaceflight Federation’s member companies, which include commercial spaceflight developers, operators, spaceports, suppliers, and service providers, are creating thousands of high-tech jobs nationwide, working to preserve American leadership in aerospace through technology innovation, and inspiring young people to pursue careers in science and engineering. For more information please visit www.commercialspaceflight.org or contact Executive Director Alex Saltman at email@example.com or at 202.349.1121.
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