Jim Muncy On Space Politics

He’ll be starting in a couple minutes.

Two topics today, second one a short rant.

Eight years ago companies in the industry and Dennis Tito started to get Congress to create a clear regulatory regime for personal human spaceflight. Some vehicles looked like airplanes and some looked like spaceships, and some like using experimental aircraft certificate route, but set one up for regulation as a common carrier in aviation, which is more burdensome than launch licensing. Culminated in Space Launch Amendments Act in 2004. Industry now lobbying for changes in the act and additional congressional direction/authority that will enable industry growth. Had been avoiding touching act until necessary, but there is a provision that expires next year that they want extended (moratorium of FAA regulation on spaceflight participant safety).

Head of FAA-AST has authority to not only regulate but also to promote the industry (rest of FAA lost this second charter after Valuejet crash in the nineties). Must don’t understand that the moratorium doesn’t stop FAA from writing regs today. Regs can be based on actual observed data (fatalities, casualties, series of incidents, that indicate a problem that could lead to fatalities or casualties). FAA is not mandated to regulate participant safety, but can in the event of events.

In the early twenties, the industry actually asked Dept of Commerce for regulations, to weed out bad actors. This is a similar situation, but regulations have to be based on observed data. In 2012, FAA could write regs based on hypotheses, guesses, analysis, etc,. if they think it will promote the health of the industry, and bureaucracies tend to push the limits of their authority.

Idea in 2005 was that we’d have raised money and flown vehicles for revenue, and getting data about what works and doesn’t, and would have a basis for regulation. Things happened more slowly than desired, and the Commercial Spaceflight Federation is going to Congress and requesting a restoration of the original eight-year learning period, in which FAA learns, industry learns, and we gather data before FAA starts regulating based on no data. Working to reset it to eight years from first flight of commercial provider, to ensure actual period of time of learning, to follow aviation precedent.

House Science, Space and Technology committee will be holding one or more hearings in April/May and mark up legislation that may include this, and that the majority substantively agrees with this provision. If people have other ideas of things that should be included in this legislation, based on challenges or problems they’ve encountered, contact him ASAP.

Also liability issues. Can Congress stipulate that laws of state from which you launch will be the ones that guide any litigation, or will litigants be able to venue shop (e.g., launch from Virginia or Florida, sue in Mississippi?).

Begin rant:

Last year was a blur because he was living in Never-never Land, apologizing for any weirdness last conference. He is former Republican White House and Congressional staffer. Barack Obama proposed to create a broader role for the commercial sector in space, and Republicans in Congress said “No, we don’t trust the private sector — we want a public option.” And his head exploded. Spent a lot of time trying to improve the policy, saving technology budgets, helping commercial crew, did what he could to keep Senate bill from being as disastrous as it was. But supported it, as imperfect as it was in the fall, because it established commercial crew and other things.

For NASA having things to do on the edge of the frontier, just opposed to them operating a trucking service on the near frontier. Orion is a new spacecraft, not in competition with commercial crew. It will have to be tested, and SLS will not be available in time, and Lockheed took risk by spending their own money as a down payment for a Delta IV (they’ve also put on their web site ideas for exploration in 2016/2017 that don’t need heavy lifters). Not competition because NASA doesn’t have enough money to launch Orions on Delta IVs to ISS. Using Orion with Delta or Atlas or Falcon Heavy could allow exploration in this decade, but people in NASA won’t tell Bolden this because they want to build a heavy lifter. Bill doesn’t require that NASA build one — only if “practicable.” Goal is to buy time until it becomes clear that it isn’t, and it won’t take long. It is possible and necessary for commercial space and NASA coexist. It is essential that we engage and show them how commercial helps them and that they know what their opportunities are. Beyond insane that the senators representing KSC where launches are happening and JSC where they are planned and operated, are willing to wait for another center in Alabama that has not successfully developed a launch system in decades. Commercial isn’t just about commercial crew — it’s about commercial approaches for supporting exploration, propellant depots, and getting NASA exploring sooner rather than later. Coalescing around Shuttle derived is short-term way of supporting exploration, and the administration failed last year in failing to connect the dots. They actually read the Augustine report and actually followed recommendations.

In response to a question, a certain senator had a staffer who tried to get commercial crew cut in the final budget, and we won’t know what is in the bill until this week. He thinks that everyone agrees that Senator Shelby’s language will be released in the CR.