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FAA Streamlines Commercial Launch Rules To Keep Rockets In Flight – TechCrunch

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The FAA has has published its updated rules for commercial space launches and re-entries, streamline and modernize the large and complex set of regulations. With more and more rockets being launched, and coming from more vendors, it makes sense to get rid of a bit of the paperwork.

The rules include, among other things, the licensing of rocket launch operators and the approval of individual launches and re-entry plans. As you can imagine, such rules have to be complex in the first place, especially when they have been pieced together piecemeal for years to fit in a rapidly changing industry.

US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao called the revisions a “historic and comprehensive update.” They bring together four sets of regulations and unify licensing and security rules under one umbrella, while allowing flexibility for different types of operators or operations.

According to an FAA press release, the new rules allow:

  • A single operator license that can be used to support multiple launches or re-entries from multiple potential launch sites.
  • Early review when applicants submit parts of their license application gradually.
  • Applicants should negotiate mutually acceptable shortened deadlines for submissions and application review periods.
  • Applicants should request security element approval with a license request, rather than having to submit a separate request.
  • Additional flexibility on how to demonstrate protection against high consequence events.
  • Neighboring operating personnel must remain during launch or re-entry under certain circumstances.
  • Ground safety oversight should be targeted to better address safety risks and reduce redundant requirements when operating at a federal site.

When speaking with leaders in the commercial space industry, a common theme is regulatory burden. Any reform that simplifies and unifies will likely be well received by the community.

The current regulations are hundreds of pages long, so it is difficult to get a license and start launching rockets. But at least it’s not multiple sets of 500-page documents that you have to manage simultaneously.

The new rules have been submitted for listing in the Federal Register and will come into effect 90 days after that date. In addition, the FAA will issue advisory circulars for additions to public comment and clarification of rules which the agency says could be as many as two dozen next year. You can follow those here.

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