The FAA's Commercial Astronaut Wings Program recognizes crewmembers who further the FAA's mission to promote the safety of launch vehicles designed to carry humans. Astronaut Wings are given to flight crew who have demonstrated a safe flight to and return from space on an FAA licensed mission.
To be eligible for Astronaut Wings, nominees must meet the following criteria and submit an application to the FAA:
- Be an FAA licensed launch
- Meet the requirements for flight crew qualifications and training under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, part 460
- Demonstrate flight beyond 50 statute miles above the surface of the Earth as flight crew on an FAA licensed or permitted launch or reentry vehicle
The FAA issued its first license for commercial human space flight on April 1, 2004 to Scaled Composites for the launch of SpaceShipOne (SS1). The SS1 program was the first private commercial human space flight program and was designed to meet the requirements of the Ansari X PRIZE, a $10 Million prize for a reusable launch vehicle that could carry three humans to 100 km altitude and repeat the feat within two weeks.
As the SS1 progressed through its flight test program in 2004, the FAA established the Commercial Astronaut Wings. The FAA issued the first set of Commercial Astronaut Wings in 2004 to Scaled Composites’ Test Pilots Mike Melvill and Brian Binnie.