FAA Requests More Funding, Staff for Commercial Space Transporation

FAA Requests More Funding, Staff for Commercial Space Transporation

The FAA is requesting an increase in funding and staff resources for the Office of Commercial Space Transportation in FY2024 as the commercial space launch industry continues to grow. The $42 million request is about $5 million more than Congress appropriated in FY2023. Additional funding for commercial space in other parts of the FAA budget raise the total for FAA’s commercial space activities to almost $50 million.

Kelvin Coleman, Associate Administrator, Office of Commercial Space Transportation, FAA.

The Office of Commercial Space Transportation, or AST, is part of the FAA, which in turn is part of the Department of Transportation. Kelvin Coleman was appointed as the new Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportaton in September.

FAA/AST facilitates, promote and regulates commercial space launches and reentries. Companies require a license or permit from the FAA for launches or reentries to ensure public safety and that they do not conflict with U.S. national security or foreign policy interests.

With the dramatic increase in the number of commercial launches — SpaceX alone had 61 last year — the office needs more personnel to keep up with demand and meet statutory requirements for how long they have to made decisions on license or permit applications.

The complete FY2024 budget request was released yesterday. The FY2024 request for FAA/AST is $42 million, an increase over FY2023. That will allow hiring an additional 20 full time equivalents (FTEs), bringing the staffing level to 161 FTEs.

The FY2024 request actually is a little less than the $42.8 million requested last year, but Congress provided only $37.581 million according to FAA’s budget documentation, although the appropriations bill showed $37.854 million.

FAA/AST is funded through the FAA’s Operations account. Commercial space transportation activities also are funded in the Facilities and Equipment (F&E) and Research, Engineering and Development (RE&D) accounts.

The FAA’s development of a Space Data Integrator (SDI) tool to better integrate space launches and reentries into the National Airspace System and shorten the amount of time aircraft must avoid launch and reentry corridors was funded in F&E. SDI is now operational so that’s trailing off. The request for FY2024 is just $1 million, a reduction from $5 million in FY2023.

RE&D funds the FAA/AST Center of Excellence for research into commercial space transportation safety. The FY2024 request is $6.157 million, an increase over the $4.708 million appropriated.

All told, the request is $49.175 million for FAA’s commercial space activities.

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