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Safety Approvals

FAA Safety Approvals for Commercial Launch Operations

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has the authority to issue a safety 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. Commercial Space Launch Act, 51 U.S.C. Ch. 509, §§ 50901-23 (2011). Safety approvals are a separate authorization from launch, reentry, and site license.

A safety 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 approval also enables launch and reentry vehicle operators to use an approved safety element within the terms of the safety 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 (PDF), provides procedures for safety approval applicants to use for identifying appropriate safety standards and obtaining a safety approval.

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 the regulations 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. Launch Site Safety Assessment Matrix (PDF)

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