Commercial Space Transportation Regulation

In my book, here’s one of my recommendations in the conclusion:

The Office of Commercial Space Transportation (OCST), currently located within FAA and often referred to by its internal code designation as FAA-AST, should be taken from under the FAA administrator and reconstituted as a separate agency of the DOT, reporting directly to the Secretary of Transportation as do normal DOT agencies. The OCST was originally constituted as a special office within the Office of the Secretary of Transportation as an interim measure under President Reagan’s executive order of 1983, codified by subsequent legislation in 1984. It was moved under the FAA early in the Clinton administration as a result of Vice President Gore’s “streamlining government” initiative. Giving it independent status would both elevate the national importance of space transportation, and remove it from the routine-transportation, common-carrier-oriented safety environment of the FAA, which (as previously mentioned) lost its role in the promotion of the aviation industry in the wake of the ValuJet crash in the late nineties. Additionally, consideration should be given to relocating to such an agency various routine space-transportation-related infrastructure and operational responsibilities located in other agencies where they are peripheral to those agencies’ main purpose and function and often suffer from inattention and low priorities.

Dana Rohrabacher has read a draft, and I suspect that’s partially what’s behind this:

Rohrabacher said that it remained vital that FAA recognize that commercial spaceflight is still an emerging industry and not over-regulate it. He noted that the Office of Commercial Space Transportation was originally placed directly under the Secretary of Transportation, and only later moved to the FAA. “The culture of the FAA is based on a mandate to protect passenger safety,” he said, but argued that commercial spaceflight, being far less mature than aviation, requires a different regulatory philosophy. “That’s a very different mandate and a very different approach, but it’s necessary for us to recognize that if we are to be successful in moving the industry forward.”

Rohrabacher said that FAA was, for the time being, doing a good job treating aviation and spaceflight differently, but warned he would seek action to move the office out of the FAA should the situation change. “Ultimately, if that proves too difficult for the FAA to reconcile, we may end up having to move this whole job back to the office of the Secretary of Transportation.”

Sounds good to me.

As a side note, the congressman has provided me with a book blurb:

Mr. Simberg makes the compelling case that great deeds and great rewards require great risks, but NASA and my colleagues in Congress have become so risk averse in the arena of human spaceflight that we are incapable of accomplishing great deeds. America must have the stomach to let explorers and settlers willfully take on the kinds of risk necessary for opening the frontier of space to settlement under the rule of law. If we continue to overvalue that risk, or prohibit those who would willfully undertake it, then other nations, with no respect for human life, will be more than happy to fill that void. Left unchecked, the well-meaning, but misguided, group that promotes “safety at all cost” will continue to establish hard ceilings that we can’t break through, require the expense of immense amounts of time and money, and will ultimately cost us our preeminence in space. We must not cede the high ground of space to those who do not believe in freedom. And we must respect the freedom of those individuals who are willing to put it all on the line to head over that next hill – even when that hill is in space. Mr. Simberg’s book Safe Is Not An Option handles this sensitive issue with skill, grace, and tremendous insight.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher
Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology; and former Chairman of the Space Subcommittee

I have several others as well, which I’ll put up at the book’s web site, perhaps this week.

6 thoughts on “Commercial Space Transportation Regulation

    1. Rand Simberg Post author

      I’ll put the whole thing on the book site and the Amazon page, but I actually will edit it down considerably for the back-of-the-book blurb, to make it fit. I have several others like that, from Gary Hudson, Rick Searfoss, Richard Garriott de Cayeux, Stu Witt, and others. I’m hoping for one from Burt Rutan this week.

  1. ken anthony

    Mr. Simberg’s book Safe Is Not An Option handles this sensitive issue with skill, grace, and tremendous insight.

    What more do you need said?

    The thing is commercial entities need to move beyond the reach of regulations. Control freaks will always assume control. People don’t need to accept it beyond a certain limit. This is a major reason people need to NOT look for government blessing to assert their right to make reasonable claims in enough numbers to make it fait accompli.

    People have rights. Government has force. Don’t accept slavery. You are not subjects. You are not the property of the government. Certainly not if you live on mars. They do not own you. Control is ownership. Do not hand it over without a fight. /end of rant.

  2. Tom Martin

    We as a nation and the government as a whole are always 2 steps behind the prevailing technology. The world and industry is dynamic and technology is highly integrated in our lives today. Today we have multiple agencies pursueing technology for different reasons, and funded by different line items. When does it make sense to create a cabinte level position that icomplasses Science, education, and technology research for advancement of industries such as commercial space, while providing a focus for education.

    Technology is here to stay, ignoring the obvious trends and forcing areas into pre-canned agencies is only a bandaid. in my humble opinion.

  3. ken anthony

    Why is there any need for any regulation?

    If the rocket causes damage, the courts take care of it. Launch sites can all have their own rules.

    If the rocket kills it’s passengers, not only would the courts take care of it but future passengers would regulate themselves.

    Regulation is mostly about the control freaks. Don’t buy it.

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