FAA personal spaceflight safety study aims for June recommendations

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A personal spaceflight safety study aimed at helping to form legislation for sub-orbital tourist flights has begun in the USA.

The US Congress-mandated study by the Federal Aviation Administration will look at eight areas:

  • safety and concepts of operation standards
  • licensing and permitting for third party and flight crew and participants' safety
  • possible related ground operations' regulation
  • if expendable and reusable vehicles should be regulated differently
  • whether bodies promoting human spaceflight should be separate from regulation
  • how third parties could evaluate new vehicles' qualification
  • how non-government experts can help with standards and regulation development
  • and whether the extent of foreign ownership of human spaceflight companies' operating or incorporated in the US should be regulated.

NASA's aerospace safety advisory panel also has input. "The study will also look at commercial orbital space flights and access to space habitats," says a source.

Initial results of the work are expected by June. The study officially began with a kick-off meeting with the FAA on 14 November. The study group then met the commercial human spaceflight industry's Personal Spaceflight Federation on 17 December.

The FAA has to report to the Senate committee on commerce, science, and transportation and the House of Representatives committee on science and technology by this December. Recommendations will feed into future legislation for sub-orbital space tourism flights.

Congress mandated that the FAA conduct the study under the Commercial Space Launch Act Amendment of 2004. The Act requires the FAA to develop new regulatory provisions to oversee as well as promote the development of new sub-orbital flights for space tourism. The FAA has already published its rules for suborbital vehicle design and flight test safety.

In a related move, the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety has launched an initiative to create a memorandum of understanding for co-operation on civil and commercial space safety standards, for the consideration of national space agencies and government regulatory bodies.