RLV Rules Released; Industry Leaders View Guidelines As Positive Step
Industry leaders within the reusable launch vehicle (RLV) sector received a boost from the U.S. government Sept. 19 when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released the final rules and regulations that will govern the future of spaceflight.
Even though many companies have been working diligently for years now to develop cheaper access to space, most executives believe the rules did not arrive late and should have minimal impact on established business plans.
“I like what I saw,” Stephen Wurst, president of Space Access LLC told SPACE BUSINESS NEWS. “They addressed what we asked them to address, they considered all of the recommendations that were provided them…and they opened the option of licensing followed by the certification which is what we were asking them to do.”
Space Access is developing a spaceplane that will use a hybrid propulsion system and one or two-rocket-powered upper stages to deliver payloads into space.
“We are glad that AST [Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation] is making progress in this area,” added Chris Faranetta, space flight program manager for Space Adventures Ltd.
The Alexandria, Va.-based space tourism company is planning actual civilian flights into space within the coming decade.
The rules specifically established a three-pronged public safety strategy for RLVs and other reentry missions. The three safety-related elements reflected in the FAA’s safety strategy for RLV mission and reentry vehicle licensing are: establishing limitations on the measure of acceptable public risk, use of a system safety process to identify hazards and mitigate risk and imposition of operational restrictions.
Likewise, the FAA agrees in principle with implementing an incremental licensing approval plan whereby the FAA would approve or provide formal feedback to an applicant on it submissions. Taken together, these elements of the FAA’s licensing program can afford applicants flexibility in seeking a license and optimize opportunities for fashioning an acceptable application.
Public Response To The Three-pronged Public Safety Strategy
Twenty entities submitted comments to the docket during the 90-day comment period provided by the FAA. Some of the most significant points raised include:
- Some RLV developers believe that the FAA adheres too closely to ELV-based regulations in its proposed approach to mission safety and that aircraft regulation, including the FAA’s certification authority, provides a better model for RLVs.
- Some developers believe the regulations should address criteria for those developing systems to transport passengers in addition to payload or cargo and the need for operations and maintenance standards that will facilitate re-flight approval.
- Some recommend the use of existing Federal Aviation Regulations codified at 14 CFR parts 1-198, either exclusively during subsonic or low supersonic flight, or in combination with FAA licensing under the CSLA.