FAA Safety Approvals for Commercial Launch Operations

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has the authority to issue a safety approval for one or more of the following safety elements: a launch vehicle, a reentry vehicle, a safety system, process, service, or any identified component thereof, and qualified and trained personnel performing a process or function related to licensed launch activities. The FAA's authority to issue safety approvals became effective on September 14, 2006.

A safety approval is an FAA document that contains a determination that one or more of the elements listed above will not jeopardize public health and safety, or safety of property, when used or employed within a defined envelope, parameter, or situation. A safety approval also enables launch and reentry vehicle operators to use an approved safety element within the terms of the safety approval without having to go through a re-examination of the element's fitness and suitability for a proposed launch or reentry operation.

The FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) publication, Safety Approval: Guide for Applicants (PDF), provides procedures for safety approval applicants to use for identifying appropriate safety standards and obtaining a safety approval. You can also view and print the AST Safety Approval Elements & Standards (PDF) brochure.

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