Defense Science Board Task Force
Remarks For
Patricia Grace Smith
Associate Administrator for
Commercial Space Transportation
Federal Aviation Administration
February 24, 2000
Cape Canaveral, Florida

Good Morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is a pleasure to be here at this meeting of the Defense Science Task Force on Air Force Space Launch Facilities. The future of these facilities is a subject with which I have gained significant familiarity over the past nine months.

More immediately, the FAA was honored when President Clinton's Science Advisor, Dr. Neal Lane, chose to announce the results of the recently completed Interagency Working Group (IWG) on the Future Management and Use of the U.S. Space Launch Bases and Ranges at the Commercial Space Transportation Forecast Conference held annually by my office.

The study, which was produced under the joint direction of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Dr. Lane directs and the National Security Council, examines the current roles and responsibilities of federal government agencies and the U.S. commercial space sector.

It identifies the major policy and management issues resulting from the shift in launch base use from its historic government-dominated basis toward more commercial, market-driven activities. Rather than a single, government-decreed solution, the report presents alternatives that describe several possible paths along which U.S. space launch capability could develop over the next one to two decades, and offers recommendations for appropriate near-term steps in the evolution of these bases and ranges.

Virtually all of the scenarios presented in the report result in significant changes in the role of the FAA in base and range management and its increasingly close partnership with the Air Force, including in matters of launch safety.

As a full participant in the IWG and a key player in the changing profile of U.S. space launch activity for the past decade, my office had anticipated changes of this nature and had begun to prepare for them.

One significant step underway is the negotiation of an umbrella partnership Memorandum of Agreement between the FAA and the Air Force, which will define areas of increased cooperation and shared responsibility.

The report also raises the issue of the need for increased FAA resources to meet these new responsibilities of its commercial space office. We had also anticipated this need and had defined and documented what would be required. The success of this strategy thus far was evident on the first of this month, when the budget President Clinton sent to Congress requested the doubling of the appropriation for AST, from $6.2 million this year to $12.6 million in FY 2001. We must now, with the support of the Administration and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the findings of this IWG report, convince the House and Senate to support this level of spending.

We must make it clear that the continued growth and competitiveness of the domestic commercial space launch industry is essential to the economy and national security of the nation, and that this level of investment in the management and support of the space launch infrastructure is essential to this outcome.

An example of the kind of increased responsibility foreseen for the FAA is evident in a section of the report entitled "Roles, Resources and Requirements for Public Safety." It recounts that Air Force safety personnel at the ranges and "increasingly burdened by oversight responsibilities for commercial launches from federal ranges" and notes that under current law, the FAA is responsible for oversight of FAA-licensed launches from federal and non-federal launch sites.

"The FAA will need to provide sufficient trained safety personnel for oversight of licensed commercial activities at the federal ranges to relieve the growing burden on Air Force safety personnel and to build the required safety workforce to oversee the increasing commercial activities at non-federal launch sites," the review states.

Again, the FAA anticipated the need for a larger role in safety, if only to cover the FAA-licensed non-federal launch sites not located on federal sites. Last year, we undertook an FAA Safety Inspector Training Program. All current FAA compliance monitors have completed the classroom portion of the program and on-the-job training in the field is continuing.

    Some additional ideas to improve training and sharing of knowledge include:
  • Rotation of Air Force Range flight safety personnel through the FAA and of FAA personnel through the Range;
  • Cross training of Air Force and FAA flight safety personnel;
  • Combined/shared presence of Air Force and FAA safety personnel throughout the process of preparing and launching a commercial launch vehicle, and;
  • Access to Air Force expertise for use during FAA's evaluation of commercial launches from non-federal launch sites

We are working with the Air Force on the development of common safety standards for federal and non-federal launch sites and ranges, with an emphasis on protecting the legacy of experience and knowledge developed over the decades by Air Force safety personnel while avoiding duplication of effort.

Working with EWR 127-1, the Air Force wing-level safety standard used to implement launch safety at the Air Force Ranges, the FAA is in the process of drafting launch safety requirements for launch from non-federal launch sites. Since the two standards serve many of the same purposes, it makes sense to create one set of national standards to cover all U.S. space launches.

The national standards are being developed through the FAA rulemaking process and will become part of the FAA's regulations. Where appropriate, the Air Force will reference these national standards for implementation at the Air Force launch ranges. This effort has been agreed to by the Secretary of the Air Force and by me. The Commander of the Air Force Space Command has directed Air Force range safety participation. The FAA and the Air Force have identified the following benefits from this effort.

  • Safety requirements directly derive from public law, 49 U.S.C. Subtitle IX, chapter 701--, Commercial Space Launch Activities;
  • Establish one set of national requirements for the U.S. launch industry;
  • Maintain level of safety expected by the FAA for safety responsibilities and by insurance companies for determining premiums;
  • The FAA will perform cost/benefit analyses of the standards;
  • Potential cost savings;
  • One standard for industry;
  • Uniform administrative processes for both industry and government;
  • Rulemaking includes public review and participation by industry;
  • Will emphasize performance-based standards with tailorable detailed reuirements;
  • Supports move to Department of Defense use of commercial launches;
  • Allows synergy by leveraging technical expertise of the Air Force and FAA, and;
  • Preserves best of Air Force corporate knowledge and lessons learned.

The development of the national launch safety standard will follow a phased approach. The first phase, which is currently underway, focuses on flight safety requirements for expendable launch vehicles. The goal is for the first FAA rule to be published this year. The second phase will will concentrate on ground safety issues at a launch site. Additional phases will address the complete replacement of EWR 127-1 and the development of local supplements to the national standards that may be needed at specific launch ranges.

Yet another example of ways we are looking to the future safety of space launch, and to aviation activities as well, is our continued work on the Space and Air Traffic Management System.