FAA Takes Steps to Optimize, Provide Equitable Access to In-Demand Airspace Near Launch Sites

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Due to the increasing pace of space activity, the FAA is taking steps to optimize and equitably manage the airspace in the vicinity of launch sites. The agency will rely on a set of objective factors to better balance the needs of launch licensees, as well as airlines, general aviation and the military to minimize disruptions. The FAA will consider the following factors in determining whether a commercial space operation may proceed as requested or whether an alternative time is necessary:

  • The location and timing of the proposed commercial space operation
  • The number of flights and/or passengers that will be affected by the operation
  • Holidays or significant events that result in more NAS congestion generally or in specific areas of the country (e.g., Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Spring break, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Super Bowl, significant military operations/exercises)
  • Launch window duration
  • Nighttime v. daytime launches: The FAA encourages commercial space operations to take place during nighttime hours (to the extent practicable) when other flight operations tend to be reduced
  • Mission purpose: The FAA generally will prioritize commercial space operations that (1) have a national security purpose or are in the national interest and/or (2) commercial space launches carrying payloads.

The agency is providing these factors to the public to inform them about how it will ensure fair and equitable access.

At the end of June, the agency will convene the aviation and space industries to continue collaborating and later will launch the Airspace Access Priorities Aviation Rulemaking Committee. That work is in addition to the use of tools and procedures (e.g., Space Data Integrator) that have cut airspace closures to an average of two hours instead of four hours per launch.

In March, the FAA announced a series of steps it is taking to keep air travel safe and smooth this summer, particularly in New York City.