Wednesday, September 27, 2023
HomeTECHThe FAA Establishes A New Committee To Examine Commercial Spaceflight Regulations

The FAA Establishes A New Committee To Examine Commercial Spaceflight Regulations

The Federal Aviation Administration is launching a new initiative to investigate potential regulations for commercial human spaceflight, a first for an emerging industry that is significantly increasing the number of people who visit space.

The FAA said in a statement that the new rulemaking committee will “help the FAA plan, conceive, and implement, at the appropriate time, a well-informed, thoughtful regulatory regime for commercial human spaceflight occupant safety.”

Next summer, the committee will collect recommendations from major stakeholders, which will undoubtedly include human spaceflight service providers such as Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, and SpaceX, and submit them to the FAA.

Read also: AMD anticipates investing $400 million in India by 2028

Although the committee is a step toward regulation, the FAA has no rulemaking authority over this aspect of human spaceflight. In fact, while the FAA has authority over launches as it relates to the safety of people on the ground, federal law prohibits it from regulating occupant safety on board launch vehicles, except in cases involving death or severe injury. Instead, the FAA only mandates that crewmembers be informed of the risks and dangers of spaceflight and complete a lengthy “informed consent” form.

Congress must act in order for the FAA’s authority to be altered, and it appears that they may do so shortly. Legislators imposed a moratorium on commercial human spaceflight regulations in 2004, based on the belief that regulations could cripple an industry that was just beginning to gain traction. Congress has twice extended this moratorium, also known as a “learning period,” but if it isn’t, it will end in October.

Some believe the moratorium should be extended further. At a recent House Science Committee hearing, Karina Drees, president of the industry group Commercial Spaceflight Federation, told legislators that it is imprudent to establish regulations at this time.

She stated that the FAA lacked the necessary expertise, resources, and plan to implement a revised occupant safety regulatory framework. “Allowing the learning period to conclude this year would pave the way for regulations that inadvertently freeze development before the industry has had time to mature, harming long-term safety and our country’s competitiveness.”

On the other hand, a report published earlier this year by the RAND Corporation suggested that the moratorium should be lifted, even though the commercial human spaceflight industry was still in its infancy.

One of the reasons given by the researchers is that commercial spaceflight companies are not required to share safety data publicly, so there is a lack of transparency regarding incidents and anomalies and no real method for companies to learn from one another.

“The current practice of nondisclosure and siloing of data and information may result in gaps or blind spots that could increase the likelihood of a catastrophic event,” stated RAND researchers Douglas Ligor and Josh Becker.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments