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June 20, 2012

NASA and FAA Agree to Jointly Regulate Human Commercial Spaceflight

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The US Federal Aviation Administration and National Aeronautics and Space Administration have reached a landmark agreement that will allow the two agencies to set regulations for the burgeoning commercial space industry.

The FAA is currently the lead agency in regulating commercial space flights, but NASA has its own goals as it ramps up contracting of commercial spacecraft to carry its astronauts to the International Space Station and beyond. While few details have been revealed so far, the main objective seems to be to jointly set safety standards without the agencies stepping on each other’s toes.

Among the principles agreed to in the memorandum of understanding:

  • Provide a stable framework for the U.S. space launch industry.
  • Avoid conflicting requirements and multiple sets of standards.
  • Advance both public safety and crew safety.
  • Advance the interests of NASA-certified U.S. commercial launch operators responsible for transporting U.S. and U.S. operating segment astronauts to the ISS.

SpaceX, the space transport company which recently became the first private entity to send a vehicle to the International Space Station, spoke highly of the government move. In an email to NYCAviation, a spokesperson wrote, “SpaceX supports increased coordination between NASA and the FAA in order to provide clarity and avoid conflicting requirements for commercial human spaceflight.”

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