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Wed, Aug 01, 2012

FAA Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee Plans Teleconferences

Three Initial Public Sessions Scheduled

The FAA plans to hold three teleconferences of the Systems Working Group of the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) over the next three months. The teleconferences will take place on Tuesday August 14, 2012, Tuesday September 18, 2012, and Tuesday October 23, 2012. All teleconferences will begin at 1300 EDT and will last approximately one hour.

The purpose of these three teleconferences is to assist the FAA early in its development of regulations to protect occupants of commercial suborbital and orbital spacecraft. Although the FAA has not yet targeted a date for proposing regulations to protect the health and safety of crew and space flight participants, the FAA believes that the development of sound and appropriate regulations for human space flight can only be achieved with a deliberate, multi-year effort. Moreover, the FAA believes that early industry input into this regulatory effort before any formal proposal by the FAA is critical.
 
Thus, the FAA would like to engage with COMSTAC on a periodic basis, approximately once per month, on specific topics. These first three teleconferences will address safety, oversight, and guidance materials.

In the safety teleconference, the discussion will focus on whether the FAA should regulate to one or multiple levels of space flight safety, what level or levels of safety the FAA should attempt to achieve, and whether the level or levels of safety should be quantified. Also on the agenda is what level of care, short of a fatality, the FAA should be concerned with.

The FAA asserts that aircraft-like certification is not feasible at this time, due to current technology and the FAA's statutory mandate only to pursue minimal regulations that take into consideration the evolving standards of safety in the commercial space flight industry. 51 U.S.C. 50905(c)(3). A second teleconference will discuss what a licensing process should look like in terms of FAA oversight, whether such oversight could or should be called a "certification," and for how long informed consent should remain in effect.
 
A third session will address Requirements and Associated Guidance Materials. In general, the FAA favors space transportation regulations that are performance or process based. The discussion will focus on the level of empirical or analytical data necessary to justify any performance-based human space flight regulation, the possible use of Advisory Circulars to add clarity to regulations, and what place government and industry standards should have in FAA licensing.
 
Interested members of the public may submit relevant written statements for the COMSTAC working group members to consider under the advisory process. Statements may concern the issues and agenda items mentioned above or additional issues that may be relevant for the U.S. commercial space transportation industry. Interested parties wishing to submit written statements should do so by mail or e-mail by August 7, 2012, for the August 14 teleconference, September 11, 2012, for the September 18 teleconference, and October 16, 2012, for the October 23 teleconference.

The FAA may schedule up to 10 more teleconferences in the coming months to allow the U.S. commercial space transportation industry to share views with the FAA on a number of specific topics related to commercial human space flight safety.

FMi: www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ast/advisory_committee/

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