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NASA and FAA Team To Streamline, Regulate Commercial Space Access

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the rules-in-space dept.

Government 57

coondoggie writes "The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and NASA today said they signed an agreement to coordinate standards for commercial space travel of government and non-government astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station (ISS). The main goals of the agreement are to establish a framework for the emerging commercial US space industry to help streamline requirements and multiple sets of standards and ultimately to regulate public and crew safety."

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57 comments

Also... (1, Funny)

jhoegl (638955) | about 2 years ago | (#40364069)

to prevent pictures of Cheneys house posted on the internet, taken from space.

Re:Also... (2, Insightful)

davester666 (731373) | about 2 years ago | (#40364303)

This will totally work, because there is no place else to launch a rocket except within the continental US.

Re:Also... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 2 years ago | (#40364979)

This will totally work, because there is no place else to launch a rocket except within the continental US.

Right.

In other news: Somolian Space Pirates increase launches

Re:Also... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#40369759)

For crying out loud... they're only going to set standards and regulate launches from the US. They don't claim to attempt to regulate Russian or Chinese launches. It's no different between normal aircraft, which are under US jurisdiction when they're over US territory. I would imaging if Russia had private space companies, it would regulate them as well.

I hope that doesn't work the normal way... (4, Insightful)

TWX (665546) | about 2 years ago | (#40364093)

...that joint-bureaucracy works...

The intelligence of a group can be determined by finding the IQ of the least intelligent member of the group, and dividing that number by the total people in the group.

Re:I hope that doesn't work the normal way... (1, Insightful)

jhoegl (638955) | about 2 years ago | (#40364241)

I would not factor IQ, but more the brownnoser effect.
"Yes sir, I think you are correct in saying that every space flight that takes off requires 500 packages of Twizzlers, never mind that you just received a large check from Nestle."

Re:I hope that doesn't work the normal way... (0)

egamma (572162) | about 2 years ago | (#40364299)

The intelligence of a group can be determined by finding the IQ of the least intelligent member of the group, and dividing that number by the total people in the group.

Like...contributors to Linux source code? (Or, Apple source code, or Microsoft source code, BeOS source code...etc)

Re:I hope that doesn't work the normal way... (0)

TWX (665546) | about 2 years ago | (#40364421)

They don't all get into a room together and remain stuck there until a decision is made, which becomes the lowest-common-denominator decision...

Re:I hope that doesn't work the normal way... (2)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 2 years ago | (#40366803)

Precisely.

Let's hope that they emphasize the "streamline" and minimize the "regulate". Look at how much both the FAA and NASA accomplished in the beginning, then look at how (relatively) little they have accomplished now that they are huge bureaucracies. Then look again at how much small operations, without all the bureaucracy and regulation, have accomplished. Like Scaled Composites and SpaceX.

Re:I hope that doesn't work the normal way... (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 2 years ago | (#40369149)

...that joint-bureaucracy works...

Yes, they'll put in regulations that protect the incumbents and hamstring the upstarts.

I was looking recently into why payment processors suck so much and asking "why hasn't this been fixed by competition?" A friend looked into the regulations and came back with a cost of $80M to meet bonding and regulatory requirements to start a new one. Hence, a startup will never be able to create competitive pressure to fix the problems. As somebody put it on a parallel thread, we're "locked" into the status-quo.

Why two agencies? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40364129)

The first thing President Romney should do with his new governing majority is propose the elimination of all of the redundant agencies.

Why not assign the management of the nation's airspace to the Secretary of the Interior. Space should go to the USAF.

Re:Why two agencies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40364169)

What you did there. I seened it.

Re:Why two agencies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40364193)

Romney is not going to win.

Re:Why two agencies? (0, Offtopic)

equex (747231) | about 2 years ago | (#40364301)

Enjoy the reign of Romney. Oh, I pity you Americans. He's a pretty smooth liar already, just wait until he gets the backing of the White House staff veterans and you will see an era that you would not even dream about under Bush.

Re:Why two agencies? (4, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | about 2 years ago | (#40364305)

Why not assign the management of the nation's airspace to the Secretary of the Interior.

Um... because the nation's airspace is outside?

Damn.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40364267)

Already on the "Do Not Orbit" list :(

Tray tables, seat backs, & barf bags... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40364281)

Standard pre-flight announcement:

"Fasten your seat belts, stow your tray tables, put your seat backs upright, & have your barf bags open & ready!"

WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40364347)

Great, So the US government is going to regulate space travel, which will in turn inherently give other nations who do not put regulations on spaceflight a decisive advantage. The rules of spaceflight already have a regulation system; Physics. Considering that Spacex, and other companies are going to have to follow regulations set by their customers, I really don't understand how this will improve anything. Does NASA get a bigger budget to oversee these operations? What is the taxpayer getting for this?

Re:WTF? (1)

luther349 (645380) | about 2 years ago | (#40364697)

people just don't see there own mistakes no matter what. tight regulations and budget cuts is what put nasa hear in the first place.

Re:WTF? (2)

bobbied (2522392) | about 2 years ago | (#40364799)

There really are some necessary regulations that need to be enforced. First, they need to make sure they prevent junking up low earth orbits by making sure there are a minimum number of bits coming off anything that might end up in orbit, something NASA has the most experience with. Second, they need to make sure launch and recovery operations are properly coordinated with air traffic, which is of concern to the FAA.

I'm sure there are a whole pile of issues that would be best to get into the FAA's regulations before private space flight becomes commonplace. The above are just a few.

Re:WTF? (1)

tmosley (996283) | about 2 years ago | (#40365165)

Are you willing to halt all spaceflight in order to meet those regulations? That may be what happens. Just like with nuclear power, which is now frozen in place with crippled 1950's era technology, the space industry will wind up being frozen as well. Maybe we will get lucky and the militaries will pick up the slack. Of course, they have no economic disincentives against polluting NEO, so they will do what they did to my hometown by dumping their degreaser onto the ground (and subsequently the water table)--utterly ruin everything for everyone.

Yay regulation!

Re:WTF? (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | about 2 years ago | (#40367709)

Yeah, just like the airplane manufacturers which are frozen in place with crippled 1950's era technology... oh wait, they aren't.

Re:WTF? (1)

tmosley (996283) | about 2 years ago | (#40372535)

How many new aircraft manufacturers have started since that time? How has the service and quality of commercial flights been since then? Not all regulation is the same, some just slows progress, while some blocks it, and some simply destroys the industry.

Seems to me that everytime your regulators get involved, we wind up with just a few remaining zombie companies on government life support. This is the case with every industry from aerospace to automotive to financial. And those big boys have their claws in Washington. If they don't like some regulation, it's out. The remaining ones are aimed squarely at startups. You have to be some kind of crazy rogue billionaire to start a business in one of those walled garbage dumps.

Re:WTF? (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | about 2 years ago | (#40365595)

First, they need to make sure they prevent junking up low earth orbits by making sure there are a minimum number of bits coming off anything that might end up in orbit, something NASA has the most experience with.

I expect this is already quite high on their list of things to take into account even without the government imposing stacks of paperwork on them. Can't get customers if they're all afraid of getting shotgunned to death in orbit.

Second, they need to make sure launch and recovery operations are properly coordinated with air traffic, which is of concern to the FAA.

They're already required to work with the FAA in this regard.

Re:WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40402469)

I agree with this, but their reasoning reaches beyond the legitimate cases.

If I were to build a private space launch venture, I would be launching and developing in a neutral country where the US has no authority or influence. Though, I would fully expect to be spied upon, regardless of whatever countermeasures I implemented.

Query (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | about 2 years ago | (#40364387)

Question:? How do we kill off this emerging commercial space flight industry

Answer: "...establish a framework for the emerging commercial US space industry to help streamline requirements and multiple sets of standards and ultimately to regulate public and crew safety."

Re:Query (4, Insightful)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | about 2 years ago | (#40364505)

Actual Answer: Leave the regulatory regime completely undefined so that no one will risk launching for fear of over-restrictive 'DO SOMETHING!' regulations killing their business model after they've already settled on an approach.

Its far better to define reasonable regulations right now than wait for poorly thought out ones to be implemented later when it becomes clear they're necessary.

Also, the FAA AST (Office of Commercial Space) folks are very supportive of getting a real industry off the ground. They're space enthusiasts, not charicatures of empire-building bureacrats.

Re:Query (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | about 2 years ago | (#40365543)

Its far better to define reasonable regulations right now than wait for poorly thought out ones to be implemented later when it becomes clear they're necessary.

Yes, assuming *reasonable* regulations are made. I don't have much faith in that.

Re:Query (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40366247)

The first things that's going to be regulated is that filth that comes spewing out of those nozzles. No catalytic converters on them, have no mufflers fitted, etc. Starting 2017 we're going to require zero-emission rocket engines.

Good luck on your efforts!

- Your government.

Re:Query (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#40370765)

Yes, assuming *reasonable* regulations are made. I don't have much faith in that.

The FAA has done a fair job of regulating the airline industry. The EPA did a damned good job of cleaning up ithe toxic mess that was the USA before the EPA was established. The FDA does a pretty good job regulating medicines (not that they're perfect) and they also do a fair job, even understaffed, of inspecting the foold supply.

OTOH, local government regs are often incredibly stupid. Don't get your governments confused. The biggest problem with Federal regulators is bloat and innefiency.

Re:Query (2)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 2 years ago | (#40367725)

Actual Actual Answer: Incorporate in Ireland for tax purposes, set up your headquarters in Ukraine to employ Russian rocket scientists for pennies, and launch from Kazakhstan.

Meanwhile NASA and the FAA can carry on with their "If we had any commercial space industry, it would behave just so" fantasies in peace. To quote the great philosopher Watterson, designing the snow fort is the fun part.

Re:Query (4, Interesting)

SixAndFiftyThree (1020048) | about 2 years ago | (#40364637)

Actually the existing pioneers, including Armadillo Aerospace, XCOR, and some others of whom you (should) have heard, are already working with the FAA and they report that the experience has not been too painful. I can't help worrying when NASA wants to get in on the act, though. NASA's main product is paper, with a few space vehicles as unintentional by-products, and they won't want to disappoint anyone ....

Re:Query (1)

tmosley (996283) | about 2 years ago | (#40365183)

They will eventually take the lead, demanding more regulation in order to crush any potential new competition. You know, like the car companies and the airlines.

Re:Query (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | about 2 years ago | (#40365607)

Armadillo Aerospace, XCOR, and some others of whom you (should) have heard, are already working with the FAA and they report that the experience has not been too painful.

That's because the risks have been low. When you start putting people on top of thousands of tons of explosive propellant, that's when the government starts stepping in and messing everything up.

Re:Query (2)

mpthompson (457482) | about 2 years ago | (#40365703)

The government should not be stepping in on behalf of the people on top of the rocket. Those people presumably are adults and have balanced the risks they are taking against the rewarding experience of flying into space.

It's the people that live under the rocket that need some regulation. Presumably launching rockets out over water should minimize many of the risks to the public, but it would still be useful to have the government provide some oversight to minimize the chance of 100's of tons of high explosives raining down on a neighborhood someday.

Re:Query (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40366775)

Rockets these days are mostly kerosene and oxygen. I would be especially worried about the oxygen, since it is highly corrosive and toxic.
On a serious note, getting hit by space debris is no pick-nick. Launches over water would solve the issue and this is what is generally done. Little need to regulate the current way of working. No space company would be this stupid.

Anticipated by The Goons (2)

Tokolosh (1256448) | about 2 years ago | (#40364679)

FX:
[plane engine starting, a few misfires, backfires. It stalls, followed by lots of bits falling off]

Seagoon:
Well, what shall we build now?

McChisholm:
Ah, M-mister Seagoon! Did you no notice? A moment before it fell to bits, it rose seven feet off the ground!

Seagoon:
Correction, five feet. Two of those feet were mine!

McChisholm:
If, if you ask me, sir, we've invented the hairyplane.

FX:
[phone rings, receiver being picked up]

Seagoon:
Hello?

Grytpype-Thynne:
[speaking over telephone] I hear you've invented the aeroplane.

Seagoon:
Who's this speaking?

Grytpype-Thynne:
The Air Ministry.

The Goon Show
Series 7, Episode 15
First broadcast on January 10, 1957. Script by Spike Milligan and Larry Stephens

Here's an idea ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40364709)

Leave it the fuck alone, government.

Re:Here's an idea ... (2)

BlueStrat (756137) | about 2 years ago | (#40365631)

Leave it the fuck alone, government.

That's not how government works.

> If it moves, tax it.

> If it is still moving, regulate it.

> If it has stopped moving, subsidize it through sweetheart government deals, loans, and giveaways that benefit your campaign contributors while eliminating competition from small players, erecting barriers to entry, and screwing over any private people/entities that had already invested unless it's a labor union...they automatically go to the front of the line of the taxpayer-funded gravy train.

Strat

And where is TSA and the DHS in all of this! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40364725)

I can't wait until those two TLAs get involved - there goes space flight! Buried under a mountain of bureaucratic nonsense so deep, no rocket will be able to get off the ground!

Re:And where is TSA and the DHS in all of this! (1)

Tokolosh (1256448) | about 2 years ago | (#40364933)

You misunderstand. Rockets will fly, but only those of well-connected, mega-corporations who can surmount the barriers to entry erected by the government on their behalf.

I can see how it is going to turn out. (2)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 2 years ago | (#40365169)

Yes, Mr Armstrong, please put the shoes on the bin, remove your space suit, put them it on the bin, the briefcase like life support unit you are carrying, please unplug it and place it on the conveyor for x-rays, and please stand here and hold your hands over your heads please. No Mr Armstrong, oxygen cylinders are prohibited. The coolant in the life support unit is more than 3.5 fluid oz, so we have to empty it and dump it. Have a nice orbit, Mr Armstrong. Next.

FIFY (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40365923)

The main goals of the agreement are to establish a framework for the emerging commercial US space industry to help streamline requirements and multiple sets of standards and ultimately to regulate public and crew safety.

The main goal of the agreement is to establish barriers to entry for the emerging commercial US space industry to help choose winners and losers and ultimately to ensure that only the politically well connected get a leg up on others and maintain that dominance. FIFY

The lol in this (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 2 years ago | (#40366259)

I'm about 99% sure that thus far there have never been 2 spacecraft vehicles in the "air" at the same time in all of human history. But hey, go decide who has the right of way at a cosmic 4 way stop lol. Okay, it probably focuses more on realistic stuff like leaving behind space junk but still, kinda funny.

Re:The lol in this (1)

DamienNightbane (768702) | about 2 years ago | (#40366427)

You realize that space stations like Skylab, Mir, and the ISS all count as spacecraft, right?

Given that there's always a spare Soyuz capsule docked with the ISS for emergency, I'd say that there's been two spacecraft in the "air" at all times for what, a decade now? Sometimes even three or four.

Plus, if you want to get technical, both the Apollo command module and the lunar lander were spacecraft in their own right.

Re:The lol in this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40367823)

Also didn't we have an Apollo / Soyuz docking osmewhen in the 70's - hard to do that without them both being in space

Re:The lol in this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40368033)

And there was Gemini 7&6A, the Gemini/Agena missions, a number of Soyuz missions, and Apollo-Soyuz.

Amazing how confident some people can be in their ignorance...

Overstepping Authority (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40367771)

The FAA only has legal authority to regulate air travel operations up to and including 60,000 feet. Even if NASA wanted to delegate low Earth orbit activities to the FAA, the FAA still couldn't do it, because it lacks the authority.

Re:Overstepping Authority (1)

halltk1983 (855209) | about 2 years ago | (#40381021)

Hard to get to "above 60,000 feet" without passing through "under 60,000 feet". I'd imagine the bigger focus is the launch and landing for the FAA. They can then leave LEO to NASA for regulation. (For the record, I'm pretty anti-regulation overall, but I thought I might clarify).

Streamline doesn't go with (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40373651)

FAA and NASA

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