FAA Shooting for September for Updated Commercial Space Launch Regulations

FAA Shooting for September for Updated Commercial Space Launch Regulations

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) hopes to release its updated regulations for the commercial space launch and reentry business in September, a year later than originally planned. Working with industry has been more time consuming than anticipated, but apparently worth the investment. An FAA official said today the new version is “extensively changed” from what it planned to publish last year that created considerable industry angst.

The FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) got updates on actions underway at the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) during a virtual meeting today.  It was the first COMSTAC meeting in over a year.  COMSTAC now has a new charter, new leadership and a revised membership.  Charity Weeden, Vice President of Global Space Policy for Astroscale, is COMSTAC’s new chair, succeeding Mike Gold who held the position for many years.

Wayne Monteith, FAA Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, speaking virtually at June 22, 2020 COMSTAC meeting.

Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith (Ret.), who used to command the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Force Base, FL, which is in charge of launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, took over FAA/AST in January 2019.  Since then he has reorganized the office at the direction of Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao to more effectively deal with the explosive growth in the commercial space transportation business, while also responding to the mandate in the White House’s Space Policy Directive-2 (SPD-2) to streamline and modernize the regulations that govern the industry.

SPD-2, issued in May 2018, similarly directed the Department of Commerce (DOC) to modernize its commercial satellite remote sensing regulations.  SPD-2 envisioned a fast track approach to revising both sets of regulations, but neither met the 2019 target. DOC’s new regulations were published last month and will be discussed with its Advisory Committee on Commercial Remote Sensing (ACCRES) at a three-day meeting that begins tomorrow.

FAA’s new regulations are still in work.  Monteith told COMSTAC they are in the “sausage making” phase of the review cycle right now. Lirio Liu, Executive Director of FAA/AST’s Operational Safety Directorate, explained the regulations are in “executive review” within DOT.  She did not give a timeline for how long that takes, but noted they then must go to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for a 90-day review. She pointed out that with the goal of publishing them in September, that means they must be sent to OMB next month.

Liu said the extra time spent interacting with industry resulted in regulations that are “extensively changed” from what they planned to release last summer. That version caused considerable consternation in industry.

Monteith promised “we will deliver the right regulations at the right scope at the right time, and that time is now just a few months away.”

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