PATRICIA GRACE SMITH
ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR FOR
COMMERCIAL SPACE TRANSPORTATION
FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION
AEROSPACE STATES ASSOCIATION
SEPTEMBER 16, 2003
Thank you, Lt. Gov. Fallin, for inviting me to join you this morning. Thank you Marc for arranging this room. It is a pleasure to be here with the Aerospace States Association (ASA), an organization with which my office has had a long and productive relationship, particularly as Lt. Gov. Fallin has come on board as chair of ASA, and in light of the enthusiasm she brings to the subject, as well as my colleagues here on the panel. In June I had the opportunity to update many of ASA’s delegates about the licensing and safety activities of the office of the Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation (AST). I also talked about our efforts to partner with ASA to promote the development of a national vision for space that is based on serving our nation’s economic interests. For some, the vision discussion is new, but not for ASA. We are continuing in all of those efforts and have made significant progress together in further fleshing a model for space commerce that we hope to help ASA finalize early next year.
I am eager to speak to you today about a subject that has been a priority for AST – suborbital space transportation. We saw suborbital launch and the future of that market coming. Our licensing and public safety activities have long addressed launch and reentry. But the heightened interest in suborbital space transportation, largely due to the efforts of the X Prize Foundation, Space Adventures, organizations such as ASA, and vehicle developers like my fellow panelist Jeff Greason, has placed in the spotlight – I do mean in the spotlight - our mission of protecting public safety while encouraging, facilitating and promoting the development of this promising space transportation industry. Our facilitation role is very important. Safety is our primary mission and we will not compromise that. But we strive to carry out the promotion and facilitation job every day.
I am excited to see the innovation, creativity, meticulous testing, gutsiness 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 every day, 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.
A key concern right now is for the FAA to find the right way to treat and regulate the operations of suborbital reusable launch vehicles that are hybrid in nature - those that are not the traditional look of a launch vehicle, those that have wings or aircraft components. I want to assure you that while it is taking longer than all of us would like, we are working diligently within the FAA to come to agreement quickly about the appropriate definitions to apply to these vehicles. In fact, we have submitted a well-coordinated proposal to the FAA Administrator for her consideration. It is my sincere hope that we will be able to provide the public with clear information and unambiguous direction very soon that will help distinguish the roles of relevant parts of the FAA in regulating the safety of these activities.
My office maintains an impeccable safety record. 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.
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 developed 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 and about which I would like to invite your input, your thoughts, your visions, your planning options:
· How does the addition of humans on board RLVs affect/challenge FAA/AST’s regulatory responsibility and regulatory approach? What level of safety should RLVs be required to achieve.
· How should FAA/AST best regulate human space flight?
· How should FAA/AST assure a level of safety for humans on board RLVs?
· And finally, are there lessons learned – and what are the appropriate lessons - from commercial aviation that may be applicable to commercial space operations?
We have made progress answering these questions, and I will continue to invite 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 perhaps passenger health standards and training. We think 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. That means beyond Vandenberg, beyond Cape Canaveral and the 45th Space Wing, beyond Wallops.
There are currently 14 states that are members of the National Coalition of Spaceport States, which feature some form of space commerce in their economic development plans for the future. As I look out and think about the future, space transportation will require a steady uphill climb and involvement of the states to build the spaceways that I hope and believe will make up that 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 a Concept of Operations (CONOPS) for commercial space transportation and 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. The FAA’s Air Traffic Organization has adopted our concept of operations and incorporated it into NAS modernization plans.
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.
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. Indeed, there is evidence they are coming in much less time. In fact, my office is already dealing with some challenging issues related to near-term efforts to pave the way for commercial manned reusable launch vehicles. To bring us to the moment, we are currently in the process of reviewing license applications for three RLV developers including Jeff Greason on the panel.
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. We continue 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 near- and long-term views to promote 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 transportation to fruition.
These are tough times for the space industry – the commercial launch industry has suffered greatly in the past several years. My days are spent in unrelenting optimism. My faith and beliefs are based on the joy that comes in the morning. For I see a time in the very near future when we will be reinvigorated by a host of activities, many of which will be driven by early suborbital RLV flights, proving that opportunities exist to lower the cost and complexity of space transportation. We are well on our way to that eventuality. We will get there in partnership.
Clearly, we believe that these developments must be highlighted more vigorously as part of a national vision. The Bush Administration Space Policy Review resumes this week. We will be returning to the table and invite your input on that policy. It pleases me very much to know that the Aerospace States Association, under Lt. Gov. Fallin’s leadership, is well positioned to help shape a national vision for the future of space transportation and we want to be there to support your work.
Together, we need to share our enthusiasm for these near-term opportunities with the public and we will. It is necessary if we are to overcome the public perception that these ideas are far off and unattainable. In the cab on the way here, I was talking with Paula Trimble of my staff about ways to push these discussions out to other venues and to engage all citizens.
We need to ensure that everyone – including people who are not traditionally involved with commercial space transportation - understands how space technology and space-based services introduce security, efficiency, and productivity in their lives everyday. It is up to us – you and me – to keep the space refrain in clear sight and with a clear, consistent voice so that it can always be heard. A high level of understanding of the benefits of space-based communications, remote sensing, and positioning will go a long way toward increasing the demand for more space-based services and developing ways to deliver those services via innovative, cost-effective commercial vehicles.
I thank you for the opportunity to be with you today.