Safety Element Approvals

FAA Safety Element Approvals for Commercial Launch Operations

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has the authority to issue a safety element approval for one or more of the following safety elements: a launch vehicle, a reentry vehicle, a safety system, process, service, or any identified component thereof, and qualified and trained personnel performing a process or function related to licensed launch activities or vehicles. Commercial Space Launch Act, 51 U.S.C. Ch. 509, §§ 50901-23 (2011). Safety element approvals are separate from launch, reentry, and site licenses, however they may be submitted concurrent with a vehicle operator license.

A safety element approval is an FAA document that contains a determination that one or more of the elements listed above will not jeopardize public health and safety, or safety of property, when used or employed within a defined envelope, parameter, or situation. A safety element approval also enables launch and reentry vehicle operators to use an approved safety element within the terms of the safety element approval without having to go through a re-examination of the element's fitness and suitability for a proposed launch or reentry operation.

The FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) publication, Safety Approval: Guide for Applicants, provides procedures for safety element approval applicants to use for identifying appropriate safety standards and obtaining a safety element approval.

Last updated: Friday, January 26, 2024