PATRICIA GRACE SMITH
ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR FOR
COMMERCIAL SPACE TRANSPORTATION
FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION
“LONG-TERM NATIONAL STRATEGY FOR
AIR AND SPACE PUBLIC SAFETY”
CAPE CANAVERAL SPACEPORT SYMPOSIUM
CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA
OCTOBER 29, 2002
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Let me extend my thanks to General Jimmey Morrell and all of the convenors of this very important symposium. I am honored to join my fellow panelists today. I want to publicly offer special thanks to General Lord, General Mitchell of Air Force Space Command and General Pavlovich right here at the 45th, for being such great partners. As we plan for the changes in our roles and responsibilities to support the U.S. commercial space transportation industry. Congratulations to General Pavlovich and the 45th Space Wing for earning an Outstanding Rating on their just completed Operational Readiness Inspection.
A Memorandum of Agreement signed January 16, 2001 provided the FAA and the Air Force the opportunity to jointly examine and clarify each other’s current roles for safety oversight of commercial launch and reentry activities, and to plan for future roles and responsibilities. It also established the Common Standards Working Group, composed of staff from both the Air Force and the FAA working side-by-side to craft safety standards that are common to all.
In a precedent-setting move to strengthen our partnership even further, we are assigning a member of my staff as AST representative in the Air Force safety office at Patrick Air Force Base. It gives me great pleasure to introduce Al Wassel, who will assume this position on November 4. Please stand up Al. Al is no stranger to the Cape, having spent several years and more than 100 launch counts working launch safety with the 45th Space Wing. I could not be more pleased. FAA Administrator Blakey and I are confident that we have the right person for the right job – the right person for this extremely important undertaking! And before long, the Air Force will assign an Air Force space officer to work full time in my office in Washington.
I especially appreciate the opportunity to demonstrate once again that this is an effort to which the Air Force and the FAA are fully committed to realize our common goals as we work in total agreement on developing better, more consistent and minimally burdensome rules for all launch operators. To this end we continue to work with industry to insure there is full understanding by all parties of the intent and outcome of our joint undertaking.
The FAA and the Air Force also contribute to the interagency effort to update the National Space Policy, the White House-led review of national space transportation policy. Two areas in which we are engaged are examining the meaning of assured access to space and how we achieve it? I am absolutely certain that a healthy and diverse commercial launch industry is vital to the state of U.S. readiness for access to space for meeting civil, national security and commercial sector requirements.
New domestic and international developments present fresh challenges to the U.S. since the last space transportation policy was issued in 1984. U.S. Government agencies that are part of the Space Policy Planning Committee as we are, are scheduled to complete a review by the end of December and report results to the National Security Council, and from the Council to President Bush.
We at the FAA continue to develop approaches to how we will deal with increased space-related activity in the National Airspace System, or NAS, beyond the ranges.
We are also looking at how we approach public access to space – what standards we apply to those wishing to take passengers into space for profit. And what about those people who wish to be passengers. The historic 5% failure record for space transportation vehicles is too high in this context, but how reliable is reliable enough? If the aircraft in the early days of commercial aviation were held to today’s aviation safety standards, would the industry have developed as it did? I am pretty certain it would not have.
Addressing the National Airspace System, or NAS, first, why is this a concern? Because we believe that there will be a time in the future when there will be more routine travel to, through and from space. There are currently at least 15 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. Obviously, we are not the only ones to believe this. 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. Herb Bachner and Shelia Helton-Ingram, a former military ATC, oversee this effort.
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. People from my office also participate in the Interagency Air Traffic Management Product Team and the Radio Technical Communications Association Advisory Committee to review the future challenges that face the commercial space industry in order to plan for and to ensure a smooth transition.
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.
At this time the emphasis is on future needs, given the current, but not at all permanent, state of the commercial space industry and the slow-to-develop viable reusable launch vehicles. The OEP process is designed to ensure that decisions made now to address current needs do not preclude the system’s adaptation to a more robust space transportation industry when it does develop.
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 precursor to commercial manned reusable launch vehicles. A California-based company, XCOR has already flown a hybrid rocket powered vehicle, EZ Rocket, under an FAA Experimental Certificate. We, and our aviation safety partners, are working to develop agency policies and safety standards that will apply to XCOR’s next-phase vehicle, Xerus, which is designed for suborbital space flight.
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. Current FAA regulations do not specifically address the safety of humans aboard such vehicles. One goal is to have guidelines or minimum vehicle requirements to further guide discussions and planning for ensure safety of humans aboard commercial RLVs.
Among the issues under study are:
· What the FAA responsibilities in this area should be?
· What is the appropriate governmental role?
· Should there be different safety requirements for RLVs carrying only a crew versus RLVs carrying fare- paying passengers?
· What should be acceptable risk levels for humans aboard commercial RLVs?
· Are there lessons learned from commercial aviation that may be applicable to commercial space operations? What are they short of certification?
· And many more.
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. In the interests of fully supporting our country’s requirements, whether those requirements are delivered by commercial, military or civil solutions, readiness is the name of the game.
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.