Section 3. Launch and Reentry Vehicle Operations

  1. Operator. Prior to conducting a launch or reentry, the operator must obtain a license or permit from the Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST). With regard to airspace management, the 14 CFR Parts 400-460 regulations for both a license and a permit require an applicant to engage AST in the pre-application consultation and to complete a letter of agreement (LOA) with the ATC facility having jurisdiction of the airspace where the launch or reentry will take place.


Commercial space LOAs are required for each launch site and launch and/or reentry operator for license and permit purposes in accordance with 14 CFR Parts 400-460.  The FAA has 180 days to evaluate a complete license application and 120 days to evaluate a complete permit application.  AST requires a draft LOA to accompany the submission of a license or permit application to ensure ATO is included in the coordination. The draft LOA submitted with the license or permit application must be acceptable to all signatories and be completed prior to the end of the application process. Each commercial space applicant must have a signed LOA prior to operation in the NAS.

  1. Air Traffic. ATO Space Operations (AJR-1800) and ATC facilities have the following responsibilities:
  1. ATO Space Operations is the ATO Office of Primary Responsibility for launch and reentry operations and any other activity relevant to tactical space operations in the NAS. ATO Space Operations is responsible for:
  1. Ensuring that launch and reentry operations are safely and efficiently integrated into the NAS;
  2. Working with ATC facilities to develop a memorandum of assessment of potential impacts on the NAS from the proposed site/operation and the identification of any issues or constraints. As the ATO's POC for commercial space operations, ATO Space Operations must provide a memorandum of assessment of potential impacts on the NAS to AST (see Appendix 13).
  3. Coordinating with AST, the operator, and the affected air traffic facilities as necessary;
  4. Analyzing and evaluating data to produce and distribute an airspace management plan;
  5. Serving as the focal point for the coordination and distribution of any hazard mitigation requirements, and information relevant to launch or reentry vehicle operations to affected air traffic facilities;
  6. Monitoring, evaluating, and disseminating information in real-time regarding the status of launch and reentry vehicle operations and providing operational support as required;
  7. Hosting a mission real-time hotline when required in accordance with an LOA;
  8. Performing post launch or reentry analysis of each operation to improve future operations;
  9. Archiving captured launch and reentry data and analysis;
  10. ATO Space Operations will supply the space launch/re-entry course (expressed in magnetic degrees) to the ATC facility.
  1. ATC facilities are responsible for:
  1. Working with ATO Space Operations to develop a memorandum of assessment of potential impacts on the NAS from the proposed site/operation and the identification of any issues or constraints;
  2. Determining and notifying ATO Space Operations of potential effects the launch or reentry operation may have on traffic flows and sector loading;
  3. Determining the type and level of assistance needed to support the launch or reentry operation;
  4. Developing and executing an airspace management plan in collaboration with ATO Space Operations;
  5. Working with ATO Space Operations and other affected facilities during the execution of the launch or reentry. This includes the following duties:
  1. Participating on a real-time communications hotline during the launch or reentry operation when required in accordance with an LOA;
  2. Execution of any safety hazard mitigation efforts.
  1. AST. AST is responsible for:
  1. Validating AHAs, THAs, and other safety and mission information to ATO Space Operations when necessary;
  2. Operating as part of the Joint Space Operations Group (JSpOG), to include onsite computation of AHAs and THAs during operations and other support;
  3. Evaluating all commercial space LOAs against 14 CFR Parts 400-460 requirements.
  1. Federal range. The process for launches or reentries conducted at Federal ranges is similar to the process at non-Federal launch and reentry sites. Additional opportunities exist in the collaboration between the Federal range and the operator for ATO and AST to obtain necessary information to support the launch and reentry process. Further, the range generally conducts some activities necessary for the operation on behalf of the operator, including safety analyses. Federal ranges also typically have existing letters of agreements with ATC facilities.
  1. NOTAMs issued for space launch and reentry operations will be processed in accordance with current FAA directives.
  2. The NOTAM must include the key words “airspace," “space launch," or “space reentry;" the launch or reentry site description, effective dates and times, and a chart depicting the area boundaries. It should also include a brief narrative describing the launch or reentry scenario, activities, types of launch or reentry vehicle involved, and the availability of inflight activity status information for nonparticipating pilots.
  3. Information regarding the methods of airspace management may also be addressed.
  1. The operator/range or designee submits a request to conduct a launch or reentry operation to ATO Space Operations, facilities and other organizations in accordance with the LOA.
  2. The operator/range or designee must distribute AHAs to affected parties, per LOA.
  3. Unless otherwise specified in a LOA, the operator coordinates use of airspace outside the U.S. FIR.
  4. Unless otherwise specified in a LOA, the operator coordinates use of any special use airspace with the Using Agency.
  5. ATO Space Operations must work with affected ATC facilities to conduct a NAS impact analysis of the proposed operation.
  6. ATO Space Operations and ATC facility(ies) develop a proposed plan of operation based on the NAS impact analysis and/or any local or national constraints.
  7. When necessary, AST verifies the accuracy of the mission AHAs and THAs and coordinates the results with ATO Space Operations.
  8. Prior to each launch or reentry, ATO Space Operations shares AHAs and THAs with affected ATC facilities.
  9. ATO Space Operations notifies the affected facilities of any additional safety hazard mitigation requirements depending on the unique characteristics of the launch or reentry operation if needed.
  10. Prior to each launch or reentry operation, ATO Space Operations coordinates with the ATC facility(ies) to develop and implement an airspace management plan.
  11. All affected ATC facilities, ATO Space Operations, and the operator/range or their designee participate on a real-time communications hotline during the launch or reentry operation in accordance with an LOA.
  12. Coordination for airspace delegation and control procedures will be conducted in accordance with the LOA.
  13. The responsible authority cancels all applicable NOTAMs.
  14. ATO Space Operations complete a post-operator analysis of actual space operation impact.