The Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984, as amended and re-codified at 51 U.S.C. 50901 - 50923 (the Act), authorizes the Department of Transportation (DOT) and, through delegations, the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST), to oversee, authorize, and regulate both launches and reentries of launch and reentry vehicles, and the operation of launch and reentry sites when carried out by U.S. citizens or within the United States. The Act directs the FAA to exercise this responsibility consistent with public health and safety, safety of property, and the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States. The Act also directs the FAA to encourage, facilitate, and promote commercial space launches and reentries by the private sector, including those involving space flight participants.
Commercial Space Regulations
FAA commercial space transportation regulations are located in Chapter III, Parts 400 to 460, of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The regulations implement statutory requirements.
Amateur Rocket Activities are not regulated under 14 CFR Chapter III; they are regulated under 14 CFR Chapter I, by the FAA Air Traffic Organization.
Recently Published and Historical Rulemakings
The published rulemakings listed below include commercial space transportation proposed rules and final rules that have been published in the Federal Register. These rulemaking documents include preamble language that provides background information and justification relevant to current regulations.
Notice of Proposed Rulemakings
- Reciprocal Waivers of Claims for Licensed or Permitted Launch and Reentry Activities NPRM (PDF)
- Updates to Rulemaking and Waiver Procedures and Expansion of the Equivalent Level of Safety Option NPRM (PDF)
- Changing the Collective Risk Limits for Launches and Reentries and Clarifying the Risk Limit Used to Establish Hazard Areas for Ships and Aircraft NPRM (PDF)
- Search More NPRMs (FAA NPRM Database)
- Exclusion of Tethered Launches From Licensing Requirements Final Rule (PDF)
- Changing the Collective Risk Limits for Launches and Reentries and Clarifying the Risk Limit Used to Establish Hazard Areas for Ships and Aircraft Final Rule (PDF)
- Reciprocal Waivers of Claims for Licensed or Permitted Launch and Reentry Activities Final Rule (PDF)
- Search More Final Rules (FAA Final Rule Database)
Guidance documents provide information to aid understanding and compliance with specific FAA regulations. They include Advisory Circulars, guidelines, handbooks, and sample applications about commercial space transportation safety and other regulatory matters. Although not guidance per se, legal interpretations from the FAA's Office of the Chief Counsel address specific legal issues that have precedential effect.
- U.S. Human Space Flight Safety Record Data (PDF)
- Legal Interpretations (PDF)
- Advisory Circular: Anomaly reporting and corrective action for a reusable suborbital rocket operating under an experimental permit (PDF)
- Advisory Circular: Reusable launch and reentry vehicle system safety process (PDF)
- Advisory Circular: Hazard analyses for the launch or reentry of a reusable suborbital rocket under an experimental permit (PDF)
- License and Permit Application Guide for Applicants (PDF)
- Safety Approval Guide for Applicants (PDF)
- Calculation of Safety Clear Zones for Experimental Permits (PDF)
- Guide to Probability of Failure Analysis for New Expendable Launch
- Guide to the Identification of Safety-Critical Hardware Items for Reusable Launch Vehicle Developers (PDF)
- Guide to Reusable Launch and Reentry Vehicle Software and computing system Safety (PDF)
- Guidance on Informing Crew and Space Flight Participants of Risk (PDF)
To help in the pre-application process, AST provides simple application checklists organizations may use when applying for a launch or reentry license, experimental permit, launch site operator license, or safety approval. These checklists are available to assist applicants in developing a comprehensive, compliant, and complete application for AST review and approval.
- Part 413 License Application Procedures Checklist (MS Excel)
- Part 414 Safety Approvals Checklist (MS Excel)
- Part 415 Launch License (other than RLV) Checklist (MS Excel)
- Part 417 Launch Safety (ELV) Checklist (MS Excel)
- Part 420 License to Operate Launch Site Checklist (MS Excel)
- Part 431 Launch and Reentry of RLV Checklist (MS Excel)
- Part 433 License to Operate Reentry Site Checklist (MS Excel)
- Part 435 Reentry of a Reentry Vehicle Other than RLV Checklist (MS Excel)
- Part 437 Experimental Permits Checklist (MS Excel)
- Part 440 Financial Responsibility Checklist (MS Excel)
- Part 460 Human Space Flight Checklist (MS Excel)
Launch Site Safety Assessment updates
A Launch site safety assessment (LSSA) means an FAA assessment of a Federal launch range to determine if the range meets FAA safety regulations since they were first published in 2006. A difference between range practice and FAA regulations is documented in the LSSA. As some Federal launch range practices change over time, a record of these changes is tabulated and maintained in the "Launch Site Safety re-Assessment Matrix." The bundled package here is comprised of three documents: the introductory LSSA Overview and Update, the LSSA re-Assessment Matrix itself, with its identified changes in federal range practices, requirements and the FAA's summarized determinations, and lastly the FAA's Review of some of those identified changes for determinations of equivalent levels of safety.
These links provide additional information about regulations and the regulatory process.