Commercial Space Transportation Regulatory Reform: Stakeholder Perspectives
2167 Rayburn House Office Building
This is a hearing of the Subcommittee on Aviation.
Summary of Subject Matter
Full Hearing Transcript
Chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ)
Subcommittee on Aviation
(Remarks as Prepared)
Today we will be hearing from representatives of the commercial space transportation industry and other airspace users on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) regulatory reform efforts.
This is the fourth subcommittee hearing we have held over the past two Congresses that has touched on commercial space transportation issues. Over that time, we have come to know and understand the commercial space transportation industry better, just as you have come to know us better.
These past two years have been ones of tremendous growth for the industry; there have been more FAA licensed launches in this first half of 2018 than there were in all of 2016.
Blue Origin and SpaceX continue to push the boundaries of launch vehicle reusability while driving down the price of a launch. ULA continues to deliver highly reliable launch services to the Federal government and commercial partners. And the industry has a number of exciting new vehicles under development, including those that will soon be used to transport huge amounts of cargo and the first commercial passengers into space. I’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to the tremendous game-changing innovation that’s occurring in this industry. We are poised to reap the benefits of the investments you have made.
I am particularly proud of the job that the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) has done in enabling this industry’s success. Facing an unprecedented rise in the volume and complexity of commercial launches, AST has managed to meet its statutory deadlines for each and every launch license or permit.
But AST cannot rest on its laurels, and neither can we. As this industry grows and evolves, we must ensure that our regulatory structure keeps pace.
Every doubling of licensed launches cannot mean a doubling of AST staff or budgetary resources. What’s needed is a more streamlined regulatory approach that reduces complication, duplication, and uncertainty while preserving safety and leveraging the expertise of the commercial space transportation sector.
FAA and AST are moving at breakneck speed to achieve the deadline imposed by Space Policy Directive – 2, something that we all hope they are able to achieve.
But we also want to continue the discussion on launch and other commercial space transportation regulatory reform.
As launch cadences increase, the impact on other National Airspace System (NAS) users could increase as well. FAA is currently working on different procedures and technologies that can integrate commercial space operations into the NAS, rather than merely accommodating them.
One of those technologies, the Space Data Integrator (SDI) should allow the automatic release of airspace back to other users once a launch vehicle has passed by. Much of the work on SDI is being conducted at the FAA’s flagship Technical Center in my district in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey.
We look forward to hearing from our more traditional airspace users on additional ways to ensure safety in the NAS.
As this will likely be my last commercial space transportation hearing as Chairman of this subcommittee, I want to give our witnesses a little perspective on their role in our Nation’s transportation system.
This Nation has a proud and distinguished legacy in transportation. We are linked on the ground by roads, bridges, highways, and train tracks. We are linked on water by boats through rivers, locks, and ports. We are linked through the skies by planes and airports. And commercial space transportation provides our link to the stars.
All modes of transportation are interconnected in what, at one time, would have seemed like miraculous ways. Before the 20th century, it was impossible to imagine catching a seven-hour flight across the Atlantic. And it was impossible to imagine that humankind would walk on the moon.
Today it might be impossible to imagine catching a ride to space just like hailing a taxi or catching a flight. But the groundwork we lay in the coming years will enable industries we haven’t even thought of yet.
As our newest mode of transportation, you will face challenges and doubters, just as aviation faced its challenges and doubters. All I can say is don’t let those doubters dissuade you.
I very much look forward to hearing from today’s witnesses on how we can strengthen our transportation link to space and further integrate this industry into our national transportation system.