Kelvin Coleman Appointed Head of FAA/AST

Kelvin Coleman Appointed Head of FAA/AST

The FAA has appointed Kelvin Coleman as the new Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, succeeding Wayne Monteith. Coleman has a long history at the office, most recently serving as Acting Associate Administrator since Monteith’s departure in March.

Kelvin Coleman, FAA Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation. Photo credit: FAA

An engineer by training, Coleman joined the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, or FAA/AST, more than 25 years ago. Since then he has served in a number of positions including Program Lead for Space and Air Traffic Integration, Senior Technical Advisor for Operations Integration, Chief of Staff, and Deputy Associate Administrator.

FAA/AST facilitates, regulates and promotes the commercial space launch and reentry business. It recently completed a major overhaul of its regulations as the industry continues to grow rapidly both in the number of companies engaged in the business and the number of launches.

Every commercial space launch, including experimental tests like those of SpaceX’s Starship in Boca Chica, TX, needs an FAA license. FAA/AST also licenses spaceports and leads interagency reviews like the environmental review for expanded Starship operations at Boca Chica.

In its FY2023 budget request, the FAA pointed out the rapidly increasing number of operations — launches and reentries — the office must license as justification for a substantial increase in funding. AST supported 32 operations in FY2019, 33 in FY2020, 64 in FY2021, and expects 67 in FY2022 (which ends on September 30). It anticipates almost three times that many, 167, in FY2023 and is asking for an increase from $27.555 million to $42.777 million.

Coleman has his work cut out for him winning congressional support. The House-passed FY2023 Transportation-HUD appropriations bill included an increase, but only to $33.7 million. Senate Appropriations Committee Democrats recommended $35.854 million. Congress is still working on the FY2023 appropriations bills and anything can happen between now and when a final deal is enacted.

Coleman has a B.S. in electronics and computer engineering from George Mason University and an MBA from Marymount University. Before joining FAA/AST he worked for the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command as a systems engineer and as a guidance, navigation and control engineer.

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