PATRICIA G. SMITH
ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR FOR
COMMERCIAL SPACE TRANSPORTATION
FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION
ON THE OCCASION OF THE
OFFICIAL UNVEILING OF SPACEX FALCON ROCKET
December 4, 2003
Thank you, Elon, for inviting me to join you this evening. Those of us who live and work in Washington know how difficult it is to find a good parking space. So I must say you’ve done quite well here. It is also apparent that your efforts to develop a new space launch vehicle designed for the future have shifted into overdrive. We are very pleased that you and the Falcon have made the cross-country journey to Washington to celebrate such significant progress with all of us.
There are some key points that I’d like to highlight about Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) and the Falcon orbital launch vehicle that relate to FAA/AST’s view of the future of commercial space transportation. I’d also like to share some of our efforts to facilitate, encourage and promote the space transportation industry, as I anticipate an even closer working relationship with SpaceX as it pursues commercial launch opportunities.
First, for certain, Elon Musk should be recognized and commended for his entrepreneurial spirit, which is the primary trait responsible for nearly every technological breakthrough in America’s history, particularly for powered flight. As we (quickly) approach the 100th anniversary of the first sustained powered flight by the Wright Brothers, we are reminded of the factors contributing to the success of our nation’s great inventors: investment, innovation, and a willingness to take risks. To take us to the next generation of space flight, we will need all three, and, I dare say, in great quantities!
In its commitment to leading those efforts - reducing the cost and increasing the reliability of access to space by a factor of 10 - SpaceX has focused on some key ingredients for a reliable, efficient, low-cost family of orbital launch vehicles.
· The Falcon rocket is substantially reusable. Based on its experience, SpaceX intends for its next vehicle Falcon V, to be fully reusable.
· Its price per flight to orbit is projected to be more than four times lower than its closest competitor.
· It is being designed from a clean sheet specifically for reliability and with nearly all components developed internally by SpaceX.
The ability to get to space more reliably and economically directly benefits U.S. citizens and people worldwide. It means better access to telecommunications, particularly in areas where land lines are sparse; it means a more secure nation as we boost our government’s communications, navigation and surveillance capabilities; it means safer air routes and roads, as space-based navigation is used to guide and track aircraft and vehicles and more quickly respond in the event of an emergency. That is only a small sample of the ways we use space in our every day lives. And they all depend on our ability to access space safely, efficiently, and reliably.
The Falcon, like several entrepreneurial efforts to develop low-cost, reusable access to space, represents the direction U.S. commercial space transportation needs to go – must go. It is our goal to maintain America’s leadership and competitiveness in commercial space transportation, without sacrificing public safety.
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 at the FAA – SAFETY.
Although Falcon’s first launch will be for the U.S. Government, the FAA has been fully engaged with SpaceX. Through a Memorandum of Agreement with the Air Force, AST has played an active role in Falcon design reviews, safety meetings, and compliance with launch range requirements. AST has also discussed requirements for commercial launch licenses with SpaceX.
We believe this type of thinking – partnering - will pave a path that fosters innovation and technological advancement for the space industry. I, along with my staff at AST, and I’m sure all of you, commend Elon and his colleagues at Space Exploration Technologies Corporation for their leadership in taking us to a new level of innovation, and for doing it in a purely entrepreneurial fashion. Elon, on behalf of FAA Administrator, Marion Blakey, I wish you all the best for Falcon’s maiden voyage, and for many successful launches beyond that. And to your second launch, because we get to license it.
As we celebrate the centennial of flight to come, you and your company truly embody the spirit of the Wright brothers and the can-do American tradition. We look forward to those familiar words in the launch industry, “GO FOR LAUNCH!”
Thank you for inviting me to be a part of this historic occasion.