FAA Begins Advisory Committee Meetings on Regulations to Protect Commercial Spaceflight Passengers

FAA Begins Advisory Committee Meetings on Regulations to Protect Commercial Spaceflight Passengers

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is set to begin a series of what could become monthly meetings with its Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) to begin early work on developing regulations to protect occupants of commercial suborbital or orbital spacecraft.

Existing law is very permissive about commercial passengers on suborbital or orbital spaceflights, essentially taking a “buyer beware” approach where passengers must be informed about the risks by the company offering the service and then sign a waiver saying that they understand the risks and want to fly anyway.  That law was passed in 2004 and Congress said that the FAA could not set more stringent regulations for eight years, with the expectation that commercial flights would soon commence and eight years would provide sufficient experience on which to base any needed additional regulations.   However, those years elapsed without any of the commercial suborbital or orbital spaceflight companies offering such trips, so earlier this year Congress extended the prohibition on regulations until October 1, 2015.

Although the FAA is precluded from issuing regulations, it wants to gather information so it is well informed by the time it might be called upon to do so.   The first step in the process is three telecons that will be held by COMSTAC’s Systems Working Group in August, September and October.   The FAA’s announcement said it may schedule up to 10 more such teleconferences in the coming months.

Anyone wanting to participate in any of the telecons needs to contact Susan Lender by telephone or email (see below) in advance by dates that are listed in the Federal Register notice.   The public is invited to provide written statements as well, also in advance so they can be distributed to committee members.  The dates for the first three telecons and the associated dates Ms. Lender must know if you want to participate or submit a written statement are as follows:

  • August 14 (notify her by August 7)
  • September 18 (notify her by September 11)
  • October 23 (notify her by October 16)

The contact information provided in the Federal Register notice is as follow. 

Susan Lender (AST-5), Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST), 800 Independence Avenue SW., Room 331, Washington, DC 20591, telephone (202) 267-8029; Email susan.lender@faa.gov.

The notice also has additional details about what the FAA hopes to learn via these telecons. 

The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation facilitates and regulates the commercial space launch industry.


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