Extending the scope of the International Civil Aviation Organisation to regulate civil space launches is the focus of an international working group due to report in May 2007.
The rise of space tourism, the potential use of radioactive power sources for space probes and the growing commercial satellite launch industry has convinced senior space agency and industry officials that launch regulations should be on an international footing.
The International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety (IAASS) group will produce the roadmap for enabling ICAO to incorporate space operations. But the working group’s members warn that significant hurdles must be overcome.
“The international political willingness is not quite there yet. We will be collecting points of view to come up with a number of steps [to make this happen],” says the European Space Agency’s head of International Space Station utilisation, product assurance and safety office, Tommaso Sgobba.
He expects that extending the authority of ICAO will be easier than creating a new organisation. Sgobba cited the US Federal Aviation Administration as an example of where an aviation regulator has incorporated commercial space industry licensing into its work.
The move would enable the integration of air and space traffic control for space tourism, and the building of launch facilities closer to populated areas.