President's FY2017 Request Includes Increases for FAA's Commercial Space Activities

President's FY2017 Request Includes Increases for FAA's Commercial Space Activities

President Obama’s FY2017 budget request includes $19.8 million for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) as well as funding elsewhere within the FAA for commercial space transportation-related activities.

The $19.8 million request for AST is a $2 million increase over FY2016 appropriations. FAA is a part of the Department of Transportation (DOT) and DOT’s budget summary says the increased funding would support “launch and reentry integration as well as an increased demand in license and permit determinations, certifications, and other authorizations required by this growing industry.”

Separately, $3 million is requested in FAA’s Research, Engineering and Development (RE&D) account for commercial space transportation safety to “investigate improvements for the safe integration of commercial space operations into the [National Air Space].”  The goal is to reduce disruption to air traffic during launches and reentries. 

Eric Stallmer, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, praised the requests for AST and commercial space transportation safety, as well as the portion of NASA’s budget request that supports commercial space.  “I commend the Administration for a budget that provides robust funding for NASA and FAA AST,” he said, adding that it builds on FY2016 funding and the Commercial Space Transportation Competitiveness Act that was signed into law in November.

FAA’s Facilities and Equipment (F&E) request includes a line item related to commercial space activities as well.  “Air Traffic Management (ATM) — including Commercial Space” is requested at $20 million, up from $13.7 million in FY2016.  Budget documents released today do not provide sufficient details as to how much of that is related to commercial space.

FAA AST requested a $1.5 million increase in FY2016, but Congress provided $1.2 million more instead, raising it to the $17.8 million level.  The FY2016 RE&D request was $3 million, as it is this year, and Congress approved $2 million instead.

AST regulates and facilitates commercial space launch and reentry activities.  With the growth in such activities in recent years accompanied by the need for AST to support accident investigations when commercial space companies are involved and interest in expanding the office’s responsibilities to include authorizing and supervising new commercial space endeavors, the office’s resources have been stretched.


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