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SpaceX Gets First Private FAA Space Reentry License

kdawson posted more than 3 years ago | from the interpanetary-driver's-license dept.

Space 108

coondoggie sends in a Network World story that begins "Space Exploration Technologies (Space X) got the first-ever Federal Aviation Administration license allowing the reentry to Earth of a privately developed spacecraft. The license was needed because the Space X Dragon space capsule is scheduled to launch atop Space X's Falcon 9 rocket on Dec. 7 and return to earth. The Launch of the rocket had already been approved by the FAA. The FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation noted that it has licensed over 200 successful launches."

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108 comments

kdawson got a rear-entry license (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34320324)

He exercises it frequently with CmdrTaco.

Oblig wikipedia (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34320980)

Lack of licenses [wikipedia.org] for the actions to which you refer never stopped a gay couple. KDAWSON has been teabagging CmdrTaco for longer than either of us has been around. As for the Back Door Drama, well, let's say has still been going on between those two for longer than homosexuals have been able to be married in the US, so your point is moot.

Re:Oblig wikipedia (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#34332160)

A marriage license and a drivers/pilots/reentry license are completely different things. You don't need a license to live together, or have sex, just to get the tax breaks married people get.

If you get caught driving/flying/reentering the atmosphere without a license you're going to be in trouble.

What? (5, Funny)

MrOctogon (865301) | more than 3 years ago | (#34320388)

You need a license to reenter earth? I can imagine needing a license to create the rockets and stuff to get up there in the first place, but once you're up there won't gravity bring you down? Isn't that the law??

Re:What? (1)

JamesP (688957) | more than 3 years ago | (#34320438)

Well, at least this means that, if you never left earth in the first place, you can enter it.

It would be disappointing if aliens had to get a license to enter our planet...

Re:What? (1)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 3 years ago | (#34320526)

And if they didn't... I can imagine an alien craft failing to respond on the appropriate emergency frequencies and ending up like Iran Air Flight 655 [wikipedia.org] .

Re:What? (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#34321166)

Something tells me that a craft capable of traveling interstellar distances wouldn't have too much to worry about from chemical rockets armed with chemical explosive warheads.

Re:What? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34321200)

I don't think there are many chemical rockets armed with chemical explosive warheads in interstellar space.

Re:What? (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#34321228)

Read the comment I was replying to, he was implying that a visiting alien craft in our atmosphere would be shot down by SAMs.

Re:What? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34321412)

I did read it. And I stand by my point: A space ship built to withstand interstellar travel conditions doesn't need to be built to withstand explosive weapons.

Re:What? (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#34321444)

Who said anything about withstanding? If it has the acceleration capacity required to achieve orbit and travel across the interstellar void it should have enough acceleration to outrun a SAM.

Re:What? (2, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#34321938)

If it has the acceleration capacity required to achieve orbit and travel across the interstellar void it should have enough acceleration to outrun a SAM.

Not even close. It's a case of marathon vs sprint. A rocket that can accelerate at 3 or 4G for 8 minutes can get into orbit. However, it cannot outrun a SAM that accelerates at 10-15G.

Re:What? (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 3 years ago | (#34323114)

My bird would not even arm its warhead unless she hit 10Gs at launch and that was on a motor designed in the '50s.

Re:What? (1)

More_Cowbell (957742) | more than 3 years ago | (#34323816)

A rocket that can accelerate at 3 or 4G for 8 minutes can get into orbit. However, it cannot outrun a SAM that accelerates at 10-15G.

Pardon me, but I think you are oversimplifying things here by only focusing on one aspect of rocket technology you are familiar with. Don't forget the GP did also say "and travel across the interstellar void" - I think his intention was to imply that the technology involved (as it would have to be) is sufficiently advanced beyond anything we have even come close to employing.

Not to mention the fact that we have quite terrestrial aircraft already that can outsmart and/or maneuver SAMs.

Re:What? (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 3 years ago | (#34325882)

Something tells me that a craft capable of traveling interstellar distances wouldn't have too much to worry about from chemical rockets armed with chemical explosive warheads.

Something tells me that a craft capable of travelling intercontinental distances wouldn't have too much to worry about from spears armed with sharpened points.

Captain Cook may disagree, however briefly.

Re:What? (3, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34320446)

Heh, it also turns out that the US is directly liable for anything put up there by US businesses. And SpaceX will have to pass through the lower atmosphere (which is why the FAA reentry license is required).

Re:What? (1)

Wolvenhaven (1521217) | more than 3 years ago | (#34320460)

It's the FAA, what did you expect?

Re:What? (2, Interesting)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 3 years ago | (#34321488)

I realize you're trying to make a joke, but having met many of the people in the FAA Office of Commercial Space, and as someone who cares about seeing an economically sustainable space system develop, I'm damn glad those people are there.

While it may not be as flashy as the guys actually building the capsule that will re-enter, creating a solid legal framework for licensing and regulating commercial launches and re-entries is absolutely critical for getting anything thats not a pork-filled government project into space. Otherwise the entire industry is likely to shut down after the first accident.

Regulation isn't necessarily bad, and the people involved at the FAA understand that this is a nascent industry, and as such must be given a lot of room to grow and adapt in the marketplace. These are people who want to see the industry thrive, not simply petty fief-building bureaucratic charicatures.

licensing? (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 3 years ago | (#34322118)

having met many of the people in the FAA Office of Commercial Space, and as someone who cares about seeing an economically sustainable space system develop, I'm damn glad those people are there.

It just more bureaucracy and big government. Of course big businesses like it because it reduces their competition.

creating a solid legal framework for licensing and regulating commercial launches and re-entries is absolutely critical for getting anything thats not a pork-filled government project into space. Otherwise the entire industry is likely to shut down after the first accident.

Like when aircraft were first built, they had to be licensed so people did worry they would crash. AHAH! According to wiki's Pilot licensing and certification [wikipedia.org] article pilot licensing started with the Aero Club of America certificates which "were not mandatory and were more for prestige and show". That was around 1905, after aircraft were in the sky. Add according to the FAA [faa.gov] aircraft licensing started after the International Air Navigation Convention, held in 1919. Then licensing wasn't required though nations came together for licensing cross border flying. The FAA page goes on to say "The earliest legal requirement for the N marking is found in the first general amendments to the Air Commerce Regulations on March 22,1927."

Falcon

Re:licensing? (2, Insightful)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 3 years ago | (#34322512)

The biggest risk to a company like SpaceX or Sierra Nevada/SpaceDev is not having to get licenses, its being FUD'd to death by the likes of ATK, Marshall Spaceflight Center, and their personal attack senators, Hatch and Shelby.

I wouldn't call SpaceX a 'big business,' at least not in their field. Their established competitor for manned re-entry vehicles is NASA. Having a set procedure to obtain clearance for re-entry makes it so that instead of fuzzy measures of 'experience' a new company can simply say "Here is our license." In this case, with something dangerous, difficult, and with potential military ramifications, having a defined procedure increases the ability of new companies to compete by decreasing their liability.

And comparing the nascent commercial space industry with the nascent aviation industry is not the best analogy -- first and foremost, commercial aviation never had to step out of the shadows and defend itself from established government agencies and their large commercial supporters. It also didn't risk accidentally looking like a nuclear strike.

Too much regulation can stifle an industry, this is certainly true, but that doesn't mean the correct answer is to have none instead.

Re:licensing? (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 3 years ago | (#34323434)

I wouldn't call SpaceX a 'big business,' at least not in their field.

SpaceX isn't much of an established company in the field but it does have big and wealthy names behind it.

having a defined procedure increases the ability of new companies to compete by decreasing their liability.

HAHA!!! Insurance exists for risk. There are also places away from population centers where launches can be done. All licensing does is reduce competition. Ask all those who homesteaded the airwaves early last century. When large corporations asked the feds to license broadcasting the government obliged putting many people off of the airwaves.

Flying was also risky but the links I provided, showed licensing wasn't required for many years. Of course you shrug off the analogy though, even though they say 3000 people died on 9-11.

Too much regulation can stifle an industry, this is certainly true, but that doesn't mean the correct answer is to have none instead.

Ever hear of the unintended consequences [wikipedia.org] ? Licensing and regulations should only come into being after a problem is identified, and then address that problem.

Falcon

Re:licensing? (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 3 years ago | (#34323536)

Thats why the regulations are still in flux. FAA-AST is working with the upcoming companies to avoid unintended consequences, they're not working in a vacuum.

Do you honestly think the military would allow a Falcon 9 to launch from the Cape, without having some documentation of how they plan to re-enter? This way appropriate notices can be given. Though I've heard many complaints from private space folks about various regulations they have to deal with, FAA licensing has never been on the list. Until ITAR restrictions, arcane contracting laws and efforts by senators to keep jobs in their districts at the expense of commercial entities are done away with, and those pesky laws of physics stop making spaceflight hard, I doubt FAA licensing will be the long pole of any venture, at least in the current regime.

Re:licensing? (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 3 years ago | (#34333934)

FAA-AST is working with the upcoming companies to avoid unintended consequences, they're not working in a vacuum.

Yea, and possibly to limit competition.

Do you honestly think the military would allow a Falcon 9 to launch from the Cape, without having some documentation of how they plan to re-enter?

One, that is a separate issue. Sure the owner of a facility has the right to make requirements for the use of the facility. But the FAA does not own the Cape or it's launching facilities, the US Airforce owns parts and NASA owns parts. If however SpaceX were to launch from AZ's or NM's spaceport, the only involvement of the FAA is potential air traffic. Now I suppose that that is a reasonable excuse for the FAA, to keep track of air traffic.

Falcon

Re:licensing? (1)

robot256 (1635039) | more than 3 years ago | (#34325272)

Ever hear of the unintended consequences [wikipedia.org] ?

Yes, everything has them. Even not enacting any regulation at all has them, like monopolies abusing their powers to stifle competition and drive up prices. Or in this case, huge insurance premiums because there are no rules shielding them from random litigation.

Licensing and regulations should only come into being after a problem is identified, and then address that problem.

Are you suggesting we start regulating commercial reentries after the first space tourists get blown out of the sky by a missile defense system? That's why they're developing the rules now, so they can identify the problem before it becomes a problem.

unintended consequences (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334136)

Yes, everything has them. Even not enacting any regulation at all has them, like monopolies abusing their powers to stifle competition and drive up prices.

Except it was government that created those monopolies. Governments gave telephone companies exclusive rights of way or easements [wikipedia.org] to string phone lines. The same applies to cable and power companies. But perhaps the biggest monopoly is patents.

Or in this case, huge insurance premiums because there are no rules shielding them from random litigation.

Large organizations and fat law and regulation books aren't needed for that.

Are you suggesting we start regulating commercial reentries after the first space tourists get blown out of the sky by a missile defense system?

That already happened: Iran Air Flight 655 [wikipedia.org] . And as I said to the reply above yours, perhaps a legitimate function of the FAA is as a clearing house for air traffic, where flights are registered in a database that others can check for potential flight conflicts. Licensing is not needed for that.

Falcon

Re:unintended consequences (1)

matfud (464184) | more than 3 years ago | (#34339810)

Perhaps you just made the point? An american ship fired a missile at a comercial passenger plane and killed 290 people. Bad comunications and no idea what the plane was. FAA will at least provide information about the flight

Perhaps you just made the point? (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 3 years ago | (#34343596)

An american ship fired a missile at a comercial passenger plane and killed 290 people. Bad comunications and no idea what the plane was. FAA will at least provide information about the flight

That was my exact point, the FAA can be an information clearing house.

Falcon

Re:licensing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34326672)

Would you suggest doing away with drivers licenses as well? Arguing that space exploration should be unregulated is a hard position to defend. Debating what level regulation should be is one thing, but you seem to be advocating an unregulated space industry.

Re:licensing? (1)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 3 years ago | (#34323234)

It just more bureaucracy

You say that like it's a bad thing. From wikipedia: Bureaucracy is the combined organizational structure, procedures, protocols, and set of regulations in place to manage activity. Please do enlighten with a better way to run large complex orginizations.

Re:licensing? (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 3 years ago | (#34323762)

A thing can be both a necessary thing and a bad thing. This is often the case with war, or worse, bureaucracy.

It just more bureaucracy (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 3 years ago | (#34333686)

You say that like it's a bad thing.

Bureaucracies always seek to expand their power and drain resources from where they can do good.

Please do enlighten with a better way to run large complex orginizations.

And what large complex organizations might those be? If you mean governmental organizations, I oppose large government, and want to shrink it not expand it. With a few exceptions I also oppose large corporations, such as too big to fail banks and too big to fail auto makers.

Falcon

Re:It just more bureaucracy (1)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 3 years ago | (#34335564)

And what large complex organizations might those be? If you mean governmental organizations, I oppose large government, and want to shrink it not expand it. With a few exceptions I also oppose large corporations, such as too big to fail banks and too big to fail auto makers.

Problem is large and complex applies to city governments and small companies as well. You can open a store and run one without a bureaucracy. If you own 10 stores it is very unlikely you can be successful without a bureaucracy of some sort. It would be very difficult to mass produce anything without bureacracy. Hardly anything in our modern day lives could exist without bureaucracy. Are bureacracies perfect? NO. Is the federal government too big? Yes, but I don't think that's the fault of bureaucracy as much as the politicians running it and an apathetic citenzry.

I still have yet to see anyone offer an alternative to bureaucracy that would work. One could argue that if you made a list of richest to poorest countries you would find more bureaucracy in the richer countries.

Re:It just more bureaucracy (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 3 years ago | (#34335824)

If you own 10 stores it is very unlikely you can be successful without a bureaucracy of some sort.

If it were me, each store manager would be responsible for that store, they would then report to me.

It would be very difficult to mass produce anything without bureacracy.

And just how many things have to be mass produced by one producer? Like I said, with a few exceptions I don't think large businesses are needed. A fab plant for semi-conductors can cost hundreds of dollars if not billions, but Apple, Dell, Gateway, and other businesses were started as small businesses. Some in garages or homes.

Falcon

Re:It just more bureaucracy (1)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 3 years ago | (#34336882)

Surely you will still need a bureaucracy of some sort. Are you not going to have any product consistency across your stores. Pricing? Dress Codes? Starting pay for employees? Product Placement? Vendor preferences? A return policy? If you leave it up to each manager you are going to loose a lot of benefits. Consider your liability when an employee gets fired at one store for something that's completely acceptable at another, inventory control, volume pricing, store branding. Without a bureaucracy a customer will never know what to expect going from one store to another. Are you sure bureaucracies are nothing but bad?

And just how many things have to be mass produced by one producer?

Regardless of how many producers there are mass production requires a consistency of supply and that requires a bureaucracy to set a minimum standards for components.

you will still need a bureaucracy of some sort (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 3 years ago | (#34342606)

Are you not going to have any product consistency across your stores. Pricing? Dress Codes? Starting pay for employees? Product Placement? Vendor preferences? A return policy?

A bureaucracy isn't needed for that. All that's needed is standard company wide policies.

Regardless of how many producers there are mass production requires a consistency of supply and that requires a bureaucracy to set a minimum standards for components.

Let me rephrase the question, how many things need to mass produced? I already gave one example, semi-conductors. What are these components you're talking about? And can't any standards be approved by consensus? No bureaucracy needed. When IBM came out with the PC, it had used already available components and standards. When the Woz [woz.org] , Steve Wozniak, built his Apple he didn't need a bureaucracy. Neither did the hackers in MIT's Tech Model Railroad Club [wikipedia.org] . When they hacked a nifty program they placed a copy on a bulletin board, such as Spacewar! [wikipedia.org] . Anyone could take it and make improvements, those improvements would then be posted too.

Falcon

Re:you will still need a bureaucracy of some sort (1)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 3 years ago | (#34342986)

All that's needed is standard company wide policies

Bureaucracy is the combined organizational structure, procedures, protocols, and set of regulations in place to manage activity. I'm not sure how company wide policies is not a bureaucracy.

,

And can't any standards be approved by consensus?

Sure but if I start a business I will probably lay out rules for adopting new standards once that business is beyond a certain size. I can also ask for consensus in creating new standards but once those standards are in place it's pretty much a bureaucracy again.

Also from Wikipedia...

As opposed to adhocracy, it is often represented by standardized procedure (rule-following) that guides the execution of most or all processes within the body; formal division of powers; hierarchy; and relationships, intended to anticipate needs and improve efficiency.

There are downfalls to bureaucracy like distancing leadership from the rest of the organization. Bureaucracies can become cumbersome but generally if you allow cumbersome bureaucracies to fail someone will come up with a better one. The U.S. Constitution and any constitution is in effect the template for bureaucracy by laying out the "organizational structure, procedures, protocols, and set of regulations in place to manage activity" in the U.S. Interestingly FEMA is considered an adhocracy the opposite of a bureaucracy. Go figure.

Even the model railroad club had rules. You had to log 40 hours before getting a key. Steve Wozniak may have built a computer without a bureaucracy but it's hard to argue Apple functions without one now and it's hard to argue IBM wasn't bureaucratic when deciding what components to use when building the PC. Small loose knit organization can exist without a bureaucracy however I have found that business that refuse to enact a bureaucracy never grow beyond a certain size.

How are you going to mass produce anything without "organizational structure, procedures, protocols, and set of regulations" I'm not sure what examples of mass produced items you're looking for as just about everything is mass produced today by a bureaucracy.

By saying bureaucracies are always bad you are saying "organizational structure, procedures, protocols, and set of regulations" are always bad. To me they seem very necessary. Wikipedia puts bureaucracy as having it's beginnings 10,000 years ago with the start of civilization.

I'm enjoying our conversation and hope you are too. I feel we may be going in circles though. Are you arguing against "organizational structure, procedures, protocols, and set of regulations" or just poor implementations of it?

Re:What? (1)

scsirob (246572) | more than 3 years ago | (#34324222)

And just who gave the FAA the authority to license anything coming from space? Why do they claim any authority at all? Part of space is over my house, please submit your application for a license from me as well.

Re:What? (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 3 years ago | (#34324830)

The FAA isn't claiming jurisdiction over space. They are claiming jurisdiction over US airspace. The airspace that any space vehicle has to pass through on the way up and the way down.
Its about making sure that when the capsule re-enters, everything that could get in its way has been moved out of the way (commercial aircraft, military aircraft etc) so it doesn't hit anything on the way down.

Re:What? (1)

the_other_chewey (1119125) | more than 3 years ago | (#34325126)

The FAA isn't claiming jurisdiction over space. They are claiming jurisdiction over US airspace. The airspace that any space vehicle has to pass through on the way up and the way down.

This would be suprising news to most space launch operators on the planet.
And to a good number of orbital mechanics people too :-)

Re:What? (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 3 years ago | (#34325242)

Should have thought harder, I was actually referring to vehicles launching from or landing in the USA. (comes from posting on Slashdot before I have had my first caffeine hit of the day :)

Re:What? (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 3 years ago | (#34324876)

Because its a US-based company flying out of a US military owned base, going to a largely US Ggovernment operated space station, flying a mission purchased by the US government, and re-entering into US airspace as well. Its US airspace and falls under the US governments jurisdiction -- I'd much rather the FAA be in charge of it than the military. Do you plan to set up a process for airlines to get licenses to fly over your house too?

This is a situation of the FAA and the company working together to figure out the best way to create a regulatory environment that is safe, reduces liabilities and encourages new development. If the government had told them they couldn't re-enter, they would have been free to re-incorporate in the Isle of Man, launch from Kwaj and re-enter into the Pacific. Fortunately the FAA is trying to help rather than hinder right now and should be praised for that.

Having a license is *good* for SpaceX, it gives them credibility and keeps things predictable for the future.

Re:What? (1, Offtopic)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 3 years ago | (#34321522)

It's the FAA, what did you expect?

Actually, you're required to let the TSA touch your junk before you're allowed to re-enter.

Re:What? (1, Offtopic)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#34320634)

You need to submit to either the pornography machine or through-the-clothing full body cavity search just to fly across the state. I wouldn't be surprised if they required a quarantine period for re-entry. If I remember correctly, they actually did quarantine the first few astronauts.

Gotta protect against space bugs after all

Re:What? (1)

Truth is life (1184975) | more than 3 years ago | (#34320676)

Well, not so much gravity as the atmosphere (drag eventually makes your orbit intersect the Earth's surface). Anyways, the license itself is reasonable enough for liability purposes (delineating who is responsible for the payload when returned), as practically all previous satellites that have reentered the atmosphere have been governmental. And this is a controlled, purposeful reentry, not a laws-of-physics demanded one.

Re:What? (1)

matfud (464184) | more than 3 years ago | (#34332196)

Something coming down at high speed (mark 12 to 15) does need clearance. Just to get all the planes out of the area and then figure out where it hit the ground. I hope it does not.

Re:What? (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 3 years ago | (#34332926)

...mark 12 to 15...

Do you mean Mach [wikipedia.org] 12 to 15, perhaps?

This is a classic example of a Tiller's Rule violation.

Re:What? (2, Funny)

Chairboy (88841) | more than 3 years ago | (#34320786)

It's part of an effort to limit illegal aliens.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34332008)

If you were a sci-fi fan, you'd know that landing on this planet without permission will get you in trouble.

We need something better (4, Funny)

dmomo (256005) | more than 3 years ago | (#34320404)

Like a green card system. If you outlaw "landing on Earth", only outlaws will land on Earth. That is very scary. I recommend a legal path to citizenship for our visitors.

Re:We need something better (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 3 years ago | (#34320656)

They won't come here for the accomodations [google.com] , that's for sure.

No shit, there I was (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34320444)

kdawson at the masturbation tournament in Missoula, Montana. Thanks to all the practice he gets from being a solitary nerd, he managed to take second place overall, and first in the speedrun.

Re:No shit, there I was (1)

durrr (1316311) | more than 3 years ago | (#34320898)

He's hardly solitary if he participates in a tournaments now is he? And i understand the concept of a speedrun in a masturbation tournament, but by what criteria would you judge the normal event, the main purpose is to please yourself, which is subjective, of course you could judge the style of masturbation but that hardly qualifies for what good masturbation is, and if you do it for the judges it's a handjob tournament and not a masturbation one.

A license? (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 3 years ago | (#34320554)

So if they didn't get this license, does that mean it would never return to Earth? That the laws of physics would be put on hold until the appropriate paperwork was filed? Sorry; Just being snarky. It's hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that any governmental organization can tell us how and when we can visit the stars.

Re:A license? (1)

Issarlk (1429361) | more than 3 years ago | (#34320642)

Without the need for a license, any average Joe could launch spaceships and make them land wherever after their orbital flight, causing havoc.

Re:A license? (1)

srussia (884021) | more than 3 years ago | (#34320696)

Without the need for a license, any average Joe could launch spaceships and make them land wherever after their orbital flight, causing havoc.

There are already laws on "causing havoc". No harm, no foul.

Re:A license? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34320958)

This is sort of like how in the US we now have drivers licenses and a body to coordinate air traffic. We didn't need either one when the technology popped on the scene because the likelihood of other people being hurt was pretty much non-existent.

Space travel though is different. A trajectory that's off by only a little bit can easily result in the spacecraft breaking up over a major city. Sure it's a long shot, granted, that's not much of an issue with the technology in play, but somebody does have to monitor and coordinate this and it's probably better to start now rather than freak out when things go wrong later.

And the only reason that it's the FAA rather than NASA is one of funding and equipment. NASA doesn't have the equipment or the expertise in airtraffic control beyond just their equipment. The FAA OTOH does this every day, granted, not typically with space craft, but since they will eventually have to weave spacecraft in with aircraft, they're the logical choice.

Re:A license? (3, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#34320646)

So if they didn't get this license, does that mean it would never return to Earth?

No, it means it wouldn't leave the launch pad.

It's hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that any governmental organization can tell us how and when we can visit the stars.

Your government doesn't want to start an international incident when your flight plan knocks another government's communication satellite out of orbit.

Re:A license? (2, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 3 years ago | (#34320764)

Your government doesn't want to start an international incident when your flight plan knocks another government's communication satellite out of orbit.

Yeah, except... nobody owns space by international treaty anyway. So if a satellite malfunctions (or a space ship collides with one), legally it's like international waters.

Re:A license? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34320816)

That may be, but your government does own your ass.

Re:A license? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34320990)

You seem to be implying that the legality of knocking out a satellite is relevant to how pissed the owning country or corporation would be.

Re:A license? (3, Informative)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#34321032)

Yes and if you destroy someones ship in international waters it is also covered by treaty and international law just like space...
But this rocket is going to transit US air space to get into orbit, it is also owned by a US company, it is launching from the US, it is using the US eastern test range, it is flying under a US government contract, and I believe will land in US. The US has the right and frankly the obligation to certify that this flight will not be an epic mess up.
So yea the FAA is going to deal with this.

Re:A license? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34322656)

But this rocket is going to transit US air space to get into orbit, it is also owned by a US company, it is launching from the US, it is using the US eastern test range, it is flying under a US government contract, and I believe will land in US.

So... it pays taxes in Ireland?

Re:A license? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34321034)

I'm not sure what you're getting at. Are you saying there is no legal recourse for happenings on international waters? And in space, like international waters, there is no legal recourse for damages? Neither one of the assertions is correct. Things that happen on international waters are covered by international law and the same goes for space. Just because no one owns space doesn't mean there is no law. It just means that no one country's laws apply and to figure responsibility you turn to international law.

I believe it's no longer handled by the jurisdiction of where the damages occurred. The Lotus Case. I think it's now the country's laws of the person who caused the damages. Libya and Texaco Arbitration. SpaceX would be liable for damages under US law. If Russia did it they'd be responsible under their law. Seems like you'd never get your compensation but you can always go to the ICJ, get your judgment, then seize assets. That ability got Libya to pay up to Texaco.

Re:A license? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34321052)

Not quite, nobody owns space, but the US does own and control the airspace direction over head. Which is why it's a reentry license and not a space license. There is no legal requirement that the US or any other nation allow access to its airspace. And the funny thing about space travel is that unless you start and stop in space or another planet you're eventually going to need permission to enter somebody's airspace. Although, Suppose you could build an offshore derrick like Boeing was trying where that doesn't apply.

Having the FAA regulate it is really the only sane way. Somebody has to do it, NASA hasn't the funding, expertise or equipment to manage projects they aren't themselves accomplishing. A new international body would have to be set up, and we don't really want to start that at this point, we could easily kill the industry before it exists. And at this point, it's American businesses or the Russian government. The Russians are handling their own, and we're handling the commercial bit at this time.

As an aside, I'd personally, prefer to have a license rather than get shot down by the US military.

Re:A license? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34321068)

Re-entry implies entering the atmosphere. And nations DO own their airspace. Plus, international waters doesn't stop international incidents from escalating to war.

Re:A license? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34321332)

Yeah, except... nobody owns space by international treaty anyway. So if a satellite malfunctions (or a space ship collides with one), legally it's like international waters.

I'm reminded of this stupid joke.
"Here, you can drink half my milk."
"Thanks." (drinks whole glass)
"What?!"
"Mine was the bottom half."

So go nuts once you get up there, but you can't act surprised by a nation exerting authority over whatever it thinks its boundaries are.

Re:A license? (5, Informative)

thpr (786837) | more than 3 years ago | (#34321802)

Yeah, except... nobody owns space by international treaty anyway. So if a satellite malfunctions (or a space ship collides with one), legally it's like international waters.

Articles VI and VII of The Treaty [unoosa.org] disagree.

Which - for reference - is different from the law of the sea [un.org] .

Re:A license? (1)

durrr (1316311) | more than 3 years ago | (#34320992)

Couldn't the FAA revoke their reentry license?

Knowing US beurocracy i can already see either Orbital Decay or Gravity called to a hearing of why it conspired to grant re entry to the US for unlicensed spacecrafts.

Re:A license? (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#34321042)

And your government waits for approval from all others?

Re:A license? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34321348)

No, it means it wouldn't leave the launch pad.

Wouldn't that be covered by a license for leaving earth, instead of a license for reentry? After all, you might want to try a one-way trip to Mars, in which case there would not be any reentry.

Re:A license? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#34321888)

No, it means it wouldn't leave the launch pad.

Wouldn't that be covered by a license for leaving earth, instead of a license for reentry?

I'd imagine that a license for reentry would be executed as part of the same document as a license for leaving.

Re:A license? (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#34320926)

Really?
Why?
A governmental organization tells you how and what you can drive to the store.
A governmental organization tells you how and what you can fly in the sky.
A governmental organisation tells you what you can sail on a lake or an ocean.
Not to mention this isn't going to the "stars" it is going into orbit.
And yes their are rules. A lot of rules for this kind of thing.
The FAA had to approve the reentry and landing since it is probably going to be in US air space and or territory. On can imagine that they would not approve the landing to be at LAX.
If you are flying anything in US airspace it is with the FAAs permission or you are breaking a law.
Even a paper airplane... It is under a certain size and weight so the FAA says you may fly it. Other rules may apply like on littering.

Re:A license? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34321318)

So if they didn't get this license, does that mean it would never return to Earth?

Not legally, at least, provided your reentry path passes U.S: territory (the FAA doesn't have much to say about non-U.S. territory I think; however other countries might require licenses as well). Of course, currently there are not too many cops up there who could stop you. :-)

Of course it would be a bad surprise if you are in space and then notice that you forgot to apply for a reentry license ...

That the laws of physics would be put on hold until the appropriate paperwork was filed?

Does your car refuse to work if you don't have a driving license?

the short version is (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 3 years ago | (#34321854)

The question is In how many pieces will it land in??

Re:A license? (1)

not-my-real-name (193518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34324598)

There is a difference between what you can legally do and what you can physically do.

TSA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34320588)

The security checkpoints coming from another country are bad enough. I heard the ones if you are coming from *space* are a real bitch.

Re:TSA? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34321072)

I'm more concerned with them coming here and applying for work with the TSA.

Dear Slashdot Editors: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34320636)

"first-ever" should read "first" because "first-ever" is redundant.

I hope this helps to improve your story composition skills.

Yours In Line [youtube.com] ,
Kilgore Trout

Re:Dear Slashdot Editors: (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34321104)

No it's not. If I were to train really hard and finish the Boston marathon, that would be my first completion. It would not however be the first time that anybody completed it, and probably not even the first time that day. Plus the person who finishes first on that day, isn't really the first person to complete it as many people completed it in previous years.

Re:Dear Slashdot Editors: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34322776)

Also, the president of the US is not married to the Biblical Eve.

I already have one (2, Funny)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 3 years ago | (#34320896)

I have a class 2 (three axle) re-entry license I got at the DMV. Only cost $20 and the exam was waived since I don't have a spacecraft yet. It works like a charm at bars to pick up skanky chicks.

Don' t you just hate it... (2, Funny)

formfeed (703859) | more than 3 years ago | (#34321008)

... when you ask for reentry and they just keep telling you. "Please stay in low orbit. We will contact you again"

It's needed. (5, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#34321076)

Bear in mind that a spacecraft launch and an ICBM launch look very similar, and a re-entry looks like an incoming missile. It's best if everybody knows where and when to expect such events, so that various military forces don't overreact. Both the normal scenarios and the abort plans need to be reviewed.

Re:It's needed. (2, Funny)

roothog (635998) | more than 3 years ago | (#34321338)

And it keeps CBS News from embarrassing themselves with video clips of airplane contrails.

Re:It's needed. (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 3 years ago | (#34321434)

spacecraft re-entry, especially a manned re-entry, tends to be done at a shallower angle than a ICBM's ballistic re-entry vehicle.

Re:It's needed. (1)

matfud (464184) | more than 3 years ago | (#34337498)

No they dont

Re:It's needed. (2, Funny)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 3 years ago | (#34321920)

North Korea just registered the other 199 Reentry licenses.

Presumably only over USA? correction? (3, Insightful)

fantomas (94850) | more than 3 years ago | (#34321306)

Article summary states: "allowing the reentry to Earth of a privately developed spacecraft".

Presumably the article summary should have read "allowing the reentry to the USA's airspace of a privately developed spacecraft"?

I am guessing the FAA's [wikipedia.org] jurisdiction only extends over USA territories rather than making a claim for global control over who lands on Earth? I am assuming the Russians and Chinese don't have to notify the FAA whenever they wish to land a spacecraft, nor would they expect a private craft launched and landed in their airspace to ask the FAA for permission?

Re:Presumably only over USA? correction? (1)

dpilot (134227) | more than 3 years ago | (#34321408)

The stunning thing about this is that it's permitted, in spite of no participation by ATK. I guess they're making sure that they don't cross or enter Utah airspace along the way. (Seems necessary to tie this into the other recent space story.)

Re:Presumably only over USA? correction? (1)

rijrunner (263757) | more than 3 years ago | (#34323594)

    Each country is legally responsible for its own vehicles. By international treaty, they have to provide basic telemetry to other countries. The FAA is the United States' designated body for this. Other countries use their own. You still need US approval from the FAA to re-enter in other countries as this is roughly equivalent to the Certificate of Airworthiness required to fly aircraft. There has to be legal documents showing you are allowed to fly, at all.

    (ie, the FAA is not just about flight plans, but also about certification. This is a certification to allow them to fly. They would still need to file a flight plan and acquire whatever waivers are needed for their actual flight. If that is to another country, then they would file through that other country).

Re:Presumably only over USA? correction? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#34328080)

I am guessing the FAA's jurisdiction only extends over USA territories rather than making a claim for global control over who lands on Earth?

No, it's not quite like that.
 
The US government is responsible (by treaty) for all launches and re-entries performed by it's citizens no matter where they originate or land - and the FAA is the body within the government delegated to exercise that oversight.

How does it work for regular ships? (1)

smbell (974184) | more than 3 years ago | (#34321682)

I'm curious how it works for regular ships. If I own a sailboat and want to (as a probably bad example) sail from LA, around South America, and over to Florida, do I have to get a license? In my mind that would be the best analogous situation.

Re:How does it work for regular ships? (2, Insightful)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34322930)

Yes, you probably would require several different licenses. For a sailing vessel you are going to need a master's license that allows you to operate the sailboat in coastal and international waters. This might not apply to a 10-foot sailboat, but I don't think you are going to sail one of those around South America.

You may need several other licenses, including a license that covers the toilet on board because without that you would be polluting without a license. Polluting with a license is fine, but you gotta have that license.

Got a radio? You will need a license for that.

You can probably think of several more things that are going to need a license as well. Anyone that thinks there is an insufficent amount of regulation in the US is just plain nuts.

Re:How does it work for regular ships? (1)

flonker (526111) | more than 3 years ago | (#34324542)

As a master captain, you will also need to get a TWIC card from the TSA. From what I hear, it's a completely unimplemented program, except for the handing out ID cards part.

I must have reentry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34321848)

That's the only position that finishes me off! Now I need a license for it???

A thought. (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 3 years ago | (#34321988)

Since it's going in the air in the United States, if there were someone to be on board would whomever is on board be subject to TSA screenings?

Licensing (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34322876)

I believe that the FAA and EPA both have to license a launch. EPA is pretty nasty to get through because all those chemicals involved. Obviously, anything using chemicals might be hazardous to the environment.

Sounds like they managed to get a launch license, so that seems pretty good.

They got the first one??? (1)

wjsteele (255130) | more than 3 years ago | (#34323520)

Wow... I thought Scaled Composites got the first one for their flights back in 2004!

Here is MSNBC's article on SpaceShipOne [msn.com] talking about the launch and re-entry permit.

Bill

Re:They got the first one??? (1)

rijrunner (263757) | more than 3 years ago | (#34323622)

    suborbital is not re-entry. Different license. This is for a full orbital vehicle.

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