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United States Department of TransportationUnited States Department of Transportation

AC 450.3-1 - Definition of Launch and Scope of a Vehicle Operator License

Document Information

Definition of Launch and Scope of a Vehicle Operator License
Date issued
Office of Primary Responsibility
AST-1, Office of Commercial Space Transportation

This Advisory Circular (AC) provides guidance on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) definition of “launch” in § 401.7, and the determination of the beginning of a launch at a United States (U.S.) launch site, per § 450.3(b)(1) and (d). Specifically, this document clarifies and provides guidance on what constitutes an activity involved in the preparation of a launch vehicle or payload for launch (§ 401.7), and when hazardous pre-flight operations commence at a U.S. launch site that may pose a threat to the public (§ 450.3(b)(1)). The authority to issue this guidance is Title 51 United States Code (U.S.C.) § 50905. The intent of this AC is to provide clarity on which factors the FAA takes into consideration when making its determination regarding which activities constitute preparation of a launch vehicle or payload for launch, or which pre-flight operations constitute the beginning of launch in § 450.3(b)(1). An operator cannot independently determine which activities meet this standard. For this reason, it is important for an operator to provide as much information in its application as available on its operations so that the FAA can determine when launch begins for a given license.