DOT To Revamp Commercial Space Launch Licensing Regime by February 2019

DOT To Revamp Commercial Space Launch Licensing Regime by February 2019

In a series of tweets today, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) indicated that it will revamp its licensing regime for commercial space launches and reentries by February 2019.  The action comes in response to Space Policy Directive-2 (SPD-2) signed by President Trump last week.

FAA is part of the Department of Transportation (DOT).   DOT has been responsible for licensing commercial space launches since 1984. At first the responsibility was designated within the Secretary of Transportation’s office, but in 1995 it was moved down into FAA, one of about a dozen DOT administrations and offices.

SPD-2 heralds the coming of an era of a “one-stop shop” for the commercial space sector at the Department of Commerce (DOC) — a single place in the government where commercial space companies can go for whatever regulatory approvals they need.  The phrase is a bit of a misnomer, however, since any company wanting to launch an object into space or return it to Earth still will need a license from FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST).

Among its provisions, SPD-2 directs DOT to review its commercial space launch and reentry licensing requirements and make any necessary changes by February 1, 2019.  As part of that review, it directs Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao to consider requiring only a single license for all types of commercial launch/reentry operations.  The tweets today signal that DOT received the message.

Any company wanting to communicate with a space object also will need radio frequency assignments from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which assigns spectrum to non-government entities.

DOC will handle everything else.  Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced last week that he is requesting congressional approval to establish a Space Policy Advancing Commercial Enterprise (SPACE) Administration within DOC to be the one-stop shop for everything other than what DOT and FCC oversee.

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