13 thoughts on “Relaxing Regs?”

  1. This really doesn’t change anything. In fact, it just makes explicit the fact that FAA/AST has always had to bow down to the ranges in its regulations, and that’s a problem. The ranges can waive their rules. But FAA rules have the force of law (under the Administrative Procedure Act), and can’t be waived more than once or twice without a new rulemaking. When FAA goes along with the range rules, it has to go along with the most onerous ones. Then, even though the range may routinely waive the most onerous rules, FAA can’t.

    The other hot button statement in this article (which may be the reporter’s interpretation) is that the Air Force and FAA “entered into an agreement to ensure public safety at Space Force bases…” [emphasis added]. One of my major gripes, both as a COMSTAC member, and later as Chief Engineer at AST, was the constant rewriting of AST’s establishing statute by its staff. That statute does not say that AST must “ensure” public safety. It just says that it must protect the safety of the public. There’s a vast difference between the two. The only way to ensure public safety to to not allow any launches to take place. AST regulations, even the new “streamlined” [eye rolling implied] Part 450, come as close to prohibiting flight as possible without doing so.

    The entire “range safety” concept is incompatible with commercial space transportation. You don’t go to the airport to be “launched” on a “mission” to fly to Chicago to visit your aunt. Flying is a transportation mode. Space flying is trying to be a transportation mode, but is being knee-capped by restrictions applicable to a weapon system test range. This collaboration doesn’t improve (or even change) the situation.

      1. Plus, Chinese school kids get hands-on experiences with China’s booster technology.

        Perhaps an interesting an unintended eventual consequence of SpaceX nailing landing after landing is that one day, assuming lots of changes in ESA direction, Europe could start launching from Europe, confident that the booster will make a safe landing further east. Of course booster might have to be on the 10,000th consecutive successful landing before that happens.

        If they were flying Falcons from the east coast of Spain, regular boosters could land in the Balearic Islands (Majorca, Ibiza, etc.) and the center core of a Falcon Heavy could land in Sardinia or Sicily.

  2. The only regulation needed is: The Launch provider is 100% responsible for any damages they cause.

    They’ll figure it out quickly.

      1. I have my doubts about these so-called “spaceports.” If it were up to me, I’d develop an orbital launch complex at Edwards AFB (or is it SFB now?), with a long ground track eastwards before reaching heavily populated country. Good down range landing sites at White Sands, anywhere near Las Vegas, etc.

  3. I’ve long thought that range safety per transportation vehicle should be managed on an annual basis, not per flight.

    If you only fly a few times a year, you would be allowed more risk per flight. This is important when you’re developing and testing a new vehicle. As you demonstrate reliability and make design and conops refinements, you should be lowering your per flight risk and thereby allowing you to fly more often per year.

    Seems this would provide a regulation framework that encourages both development and evolution of a transport system comparable to our commercial aviation today.

  4. Mr Kelley says: . Space flying is trying to be a transportation mode, but is being knee-capped by restrictions applicable to a weapon system test range.

    I thought this changed in the Reagan administration

    1. “I thought this changed in the Reagan administration.”

      Nope. The Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984 actually prohibited commercial launch without a federally issued license. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that the authority to issue such a license was transferred to the FAA. Now, there is a certain justification for the licensing requirement, since the United States is signatory to the Outer Space Treaty. It contains language related to liability for launch accidents, which one would expect (though the specifics may be questionable). Given that, the USG should have some oversight of commercial launches. But the rigid licensing process is not necessary, and doesn’t exist in any other country. It was put in place by a handful of petty, unelected bureaucrats, and completely ignored every single one of the industry objections submitted during the rulemaking process. I know, because I had a full time employee working on nothing but the FAA rulemaking. I gave congressional testimony supporting expansion of the FAA/AST budget during that pivotal time, and I regret it to this day. AST screwed the industry, and despite my efforts over the years (including as Chief Engineer at AST), it continues to do so.

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