9 thoughts on “Spaceflight Regulation”

  1. It doesn’t seem like she’s even read the regulation she cites. She writes that “…when it comes to passenger safety, the FAA has only been allowed to restrict design features and operating practices that result in a fatality or serious injury to passengers.” The FAA doesn’t have authority or means to do even that, and it certainly isn’t in the regs.

    I, along with a dozen other AST people, spent about a year putting together the Recommended Practices for Human Space Flight document, an effort led by three-time Shuttle astronaut Pam Melroy. It isn’t a criticism of AST to say that that effort showed how unprepared it is to write any kind of regulations for participant safety.

    And no one is prepared to write a certification regime. The two tourist space ships now in existence are completely different from one another in every respect – how does one “standardize” on something when every example is unique?

    Finally, who, in FAA, is competent to even evaluate the safety of a space ship for those on board? The people in AST are proficient at range safety, not vehicle engineering. There are about 100 of them, and they’re the only people in the Agency that understand anything about space transportation. The FAA employs 48,000 people, and even with that has to enlist outside engineering expertise for certification efforts.

    The argument that “One commercial spaceflight accident could prematurely dissuade would-be passengers and invite hastily imposed regulations that could suffocate the industry with over-corrective measures” just isn’t persuasive to me. Space enthusiasts tend to live their enthusiasm: it is their reason for living. They project that enthusiasm on everyone around them, when, in fact, most people don’t care about it at all. I doubt if there would be any appreciable public response, of any kind, to a space tourism disaster. Also, there is no such thing as a “hastily imposed” FAA regulation. Vice President Pence instructed the FAA to write a streamlined launch license regulation, and set a target date of February 2019 for a final rule. How did that work out?

    1. Mike – great post. I was thinking if Mike Alsbury’s death dissuaded any potential VG customers? Probably a few, but there should be no shortage of potential spaceflight participants.

  2. “raising the question of how an industry can operate without real health and safety standards.”

    How can government regulate something it knows nothing about?

  3. It’s much easier to get the government to regulate something to death than to ban it.

    I did a quick search about how many people are killed every year kayaking. This was the closest I found that lumps them in with canoeing at 530 between 2007 and 2016, 53 a year.
    https://www.liveabout.com/whitewater-rafting-death-statistics-3969676

    Yet people still buy and use kayaks and canoes. The ongoing carnage doesn’t seem to even get more people to wear flotation in obviously unstable craft.

    We’ve pretty well regulated and especially litigated general aviation out of existence in the U.S. It won’t take much “safety” for the $200,000 tickets to go to a million. That would be far likelier to kill the idea than a couple of deaths.

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