PATRICIA GRACE SMITH
ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR FOR
COMMERCIAL SPACE TRANSPORTATION
FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION
“LONG-TERM SCENARIO FOR THE EARTH AND ORBITAL INFRASTRUCTURE”
INTERNATIONAL AIR & SPACE SYMPOSIUM AND EXPOSITION
JULY 17, 2003
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I want to thank our panel moderator, Dr. William Gaubatz, for inviting me to speak to you today. This symposium, and the revolution in transportation that it commemorates, explore many of the challenges and issues at the heart of the office of Commercial Space Transportation’s current work. Future transportation architectures; transportation system energy and environmental considerations; propulsion technology development; and operations and traffic control; are at the heart of our licensing and facilitation of commercial space transportation. How do you get from here to there, safely, efficiently, reliably, and cost-effectively? Some of the previous speakers this week have taken a look back at the impact of the Wright Brothers’ innovation and engineering prowess. I have the pleasure of taking you on a journey into the next century of flight – and of commercial space flight.
I am excited to see the innovation, creativity, meticulous testing, and daring that are driving tomorrow’s space pioneers to develop new forms of space transportation that will take us – and I mean you and me – to suborbital and orbital heights. But we can’t get there without laying the groundwork for those endeavors. That is what has my staff hard at work, in collaboration with some of the brightest minds in industry and government. We want to meet the challenge of enabling routine commercial space flight that is affordable and reliable; but while encouraging and facilitating these advances, remaining sharply focused on our top priority – SAFETY.
Wilbur and Orville Wright, in preparation for their historic flight on December 17, 1903, chose a location that would not endanger the public – remote, oceanside Kitty Hawk, N.C. – and tested their airplane and its components again and again in both simulated and field environments. The regard for safety has done nothing but increase in the last 100 years. In my office, that translates to an impeccable safety record – one that in the FAA’s strategic plan calls for making sure the number of significant commercial space launch accidents remains zero. Most importantly, today it is the safety of the public – the uninvolved public on the ground - that drives what we do in AST.
We are looking at a future in which human crew and passengers will regularly fly on commercial reusable launch vehicles – vehicles that are designed to produce a lower cost access to space result. In preparing for that future, AST is developing guidelines that protect not only the safety of the public on the ground but also those on board serving as crew and passengers.
I am pleased to tell you that the FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute recently issued guidance for operators of manned commercial flights, both suborbital and orbital, in the medical assessment of prospective passengers. These new guidelines are a major step toward protecting the health and safety of any occupants – crew members and passengers – on board a commercial vehicle.
The guidelines for medical screening apply differently to passengers on suborbital flights exposed to a maximum of 3Gs than to passengers participating in orbital flights exceeding 3Gs during any phase of flight. Suborbital passengers may be asked for information about their medical histories, while an orbital passenger may be asked to supply a medical history, as well as complete a physical examination, medical testing, and pre-flight interview. The guidance also considers conditions that may contraindicate passengers from participating in either suborbital or orbital flights. It is of utmost importance to us that a person’s participation in a space flight does not aggravate or exacerbate a pre-existing medical condition, which could put the safety of all passengers and crew at risk.
We recognize there is a broad range of issues to be studied for human commercial space travel to be safe. In planning for the future, we have initiated a Human Space Flight Safety Project. We have formed a team to identify, research, and evaluate issues that could have a bearing on future FAA policies and requirements associated with the safety of humans on commercial RLVs. This is a challenge because although commercial RLV companies intend to transport humans as crew and passengers, FAA regulations do not specifically address the safety of humans on board commercial RLVs. One goal is to have guidelines or minimum vehicle requirements to further guide discussions and planning for ensuring safety of humans aboard commercial RLVs.
Among the issues under study are:
· How does the addition of humans on board RLVs affect/challenge FAA/AST’s regulatory responsibility and regulatory approach? To what level of safety should they be allowed to fly.
· Should FAA/AST regulate human space flight by setting a limit on acceptable risk for humans on board RLVs?
· How should FAA/AST ensure safety of humans on board RLVs?
· Are there lessons learned from commercial aviation that may be applicable to commercial space operations? What are they short of certification?
We have made progress answering these questions, and I ask for your input. We believe that FAA/AST must focus on safety of humans on board in addition to safety of the uninvolved public. To accomplish this, we think it is important to develop performance-based vehicle safety standards for safety critical systems; operations and maintenance standards; verification standards; and human safety standards, which include RLV crew qualification, training, and health and passenger training. We believe that performance-based requirements will give RLV operators more flexibility than design-based requirements – through licensing of launch vehicle operations as opposed to certification of launch vehicles.
We are evaluating other ways to ensure safety of humans on board, such as flight test programs and security requirements that will protect the safety of crew, passengers, and the public.
As commercial travel to, through, and from space becomes more certain, we at the FAA are developing approaches on how we will deal with increased space-related activity in the National Airspace System, or NAS, beyond the ranges.
There are currently at least 14 states that are members of the National Coalition of Spaceport States, including Florida, which feature some form of space commerce in their economic development plans for the future. I believe that these state-based efforts contribute to our national readiness, our economic future, and to our industrial base.
Consequently, several years ago we undertook a project with FAA’s Air Traffic Services line of business to ensure that the needs of space transportation users would be planned for and accommodated in the modernization of the NAS. Together, we have created two documents that offer a bridge between space and aviation operational requirements. The first document is the Concept of Operations (CONOPS) for commercial space transportation.
This CONOPS describes commercial space transportation operations with an emphasis on the space launch and reentry vehicles as they transition through the NAS. The second is a Space and Air Traffic Management System (SATMS) Program Plan, which lays out the incremental steps needed to accomplish the integration of space operations within the NAS as depicted in the concept of operations.
To accommodate future requirements, FAA’s experts in commercial space transportation support the NAS architecture development as it incorporates space concepts and identifies future NAS requirements.
To oversee the objective of seamlessly integrating space into the NAS, we have established a SATMS Executive Board that is comprised of senior FAA and DOD managers. We expect the products of this board will be included in the Operational Evolution Plan (OEP), FAA’s strategic goal planning mechanism, in order to effect a seamless transition that meets all current and future user needs.
Skeptics see this as decades in the future, but we also deal with those who see early examples of reusable launch vehicles as coming in much less time. In fact, my office is already dealing with some challenging issues related to what some feel may be the precursors to commercial manned reusable launch vehicles.
AST is providing regulatory assistance to the X-Prize Foundation’s $10 million contest to jumpstart the space tourism industry. The competition among entrepreneurs and rocket experts will award $10 million to the first team that privately finances, builds and launches a 3-person space vehicle to 100 kilometers (62 miles), returns it safely to Earth, and repeats the feat in the same vehicle within two weeks.
Our office has been working closely with the foundation to ensure a smooth regulatory process for the U.S.-based or launched contestants. As you may have read recently, the progress of some of the competitors is mounting quickly, and AST continues to be fully engaged with the X-Prize Foundation and the X-Prize teams.
I hope this gives you some idea of what we are doing regarding the long view to promote long-term air and space public safety, as well as confidence that when that future arrives, we will be ready.
However, the U.S. government’s efforts alone will not bring the next phase of commercial space transportation to fruition. Together, we need to share our enthusiasm for these near-term opportunities with the public. It is important that people who are not traditionally involved with commercial space transportation understand the benefits that everyone receives as a result of commercial space transportation - telecommunications, banking, environmental management, emergency response, navigation, entertainment, and many other aspects of daily life - and the opportunities to improve those services and increase economic benefits for the nation. Whenever possible, we should look for opportunities to allow public participation in commercial space activities, such as through Internet Web casts, attendance at launches, sessions specifically designed to raise the level of awareness of the consuming public at conferences such as this, and other creative arrangements.
In the interest of enhancing our nation’s economic interest, we must be ready to support the U.S. commercial space transportation industry in a way that allows it to compete with other space-faring nations in the next century of flight. Our collective passion for space, tenacity, our perseverance and unwavering commitment will get us there. Let’s raise the level of awareness about the exciting possibilities that space presents so that the will of the people can speak as we make our journey together. Thank you very much.