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Experimental Permits for Reusable Suborbital Rockets

The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 (CSLAA), enacted on December 23, 2004, directs the Secretary of Transportation and, through delegations, FAA, to establish an experimental permit regime for developmental reusable suborbital rockets. Under the CSLAA, FAA can issue experimental permits rather than licenses for the launch of and reentry of reusable suborbital rockets. Previously, FAA could only issue a license for these operations.

When do I need a permit?

Congress directed that experimental permits could be issued for:

  • Research and development to test new design concepts, new equipment, or new operating techniques;
  • Showing compliance with requirements as part of the process for obtaining a license; or
  • Crew training prior to obtaining a license for a launch or reentry using the design of the rocket for which the permit would be issued.

How long does it take to get a permit?

The CSLAA of 2004 also directs FAA to make a determination on issuing an experimental permit within 120 days of receiving a complete application. The FAA currently has 180 days to make a license determination. To meet a reduced timeline for issuing permits, FAA is preparing a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) to evaluate the impacts of launches and reentries conducted under an experimental permit.

Issuing experimental permits is a Federal action subject to the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq). NEPA requires that Federal agencies consider the impacts of their activities on the natural and human environment. FAA Order 1050.1E, Environmental Impacts: Policies and Procedures, describes FAA's procedures for implementing NEPA. Specifically, FAA Order 1050.1E requires that the FAA decision-making process facilitate public involvement by including consideration of the effects of the proposed action and alternatives; avoidance or minimization of adverse effects attributable to the proposed action; and restoration and enhancement of resources, and environmental quality of the nation. These requirements will be considered in FAA's licensing decision.

Related Documents


Sample Experimental Permit Applications


Advisory Circulars

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