46th Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee Meeting

Administrator Stephen M Dickson (August 12, 2019 - present)

Remarks as Delivered

Hello everyone. I’m honored to open the 46th Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee meeting. I’m sorry I couldn’t be with you in real time, but I trust this video will be a suitable substitute for the virtual me. 

But let me say there is no substitute for everyone else here—the guidance and expertise you provide to Wayne Monteith and his team, month after month after month is invaluable. I think you’ll see today the FAA not only hears your input, but we are putting your consequential deliberations into action. 

As always, I thank Charity Weeden and Karina Drees for their excellent leadership in providing us that input, and I thank all the committee members for the hard work and patience that goes into crafting recommendations, observations and advice to the Office of Commercial Space Transportation. Believe me, I’ve been on enough government advisory groups to know the drill... 

And though you’ve been working hard, I’m betting that no one is bored, because this industry is moving at warp speed. When I spoke to you in March, I opened by saying it’s been “a consequential six months since the last COMSTAC meeting.”

In hindsight that looks like the understatement of the year...

From March 23rd, the date of the last COMSTAC meeting, up until October 31, there have been 34 FAA-licensed launches and reentries.

Those included...

A second NASA commercial space crew who flew on the SpaceX Dragon to the International Space Station......and by the time you see this, Crew 2 should be splashing down following Crew 3’s arrival on another Dragon;

And four human spaceflight missions by Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and SpaceX, that among them included three suborbital trips, one multi-day orbital flight, and the youngest and eldest people to go into space, including William Shatner, Captain Kirk himself. 

As they say, you can’t make this stuff up!

While the astronauts and spaceflight participants are making all of the headlines, Wayne and the folks in AST have been moving at warp speed too. 

For one, the AST team did the groundwork that led to an agreement I signed with the Secretary of the Air Force that became effective in June. The agreement eliminates red tape and duplication of efforts for commercial space activities at the Space Force ranges in Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg, otherwise known as the Eastern and Western Ranges.

Based on COMSTAC’s recommendation to solicit industry input regarding R&D investments, the FAA is establishing a new research venture that we’re calling the Commercial Space Innovation Institute. Its mission will be to keep a finger on the pulse of the industry when it comes to needed R&D investments. 

You also asked us to prioritize our support for helping industry transition to the new Part 450 Streamlined Launch and Reentry Licensing regulations. I’m here to tell you we’ve made it so. Wayne and his team developed and published TEN advisory circulars this year—quite a feat for any agency—and possibly a record! 

COMSTAC also requested that we consider updates to financial responsibility as our next rulemaking effort, otherwise known as Part 440. Here too, we’re not gathering dust. The FAA commercial space team is in the process of setting up an Aerospace Rulemaking Committee—which we’re calling SPARC for short—that will start the formal work on this rule. We are anxious to get your input on this effort, and I understand part of today’s meeting will be to discuss Part 440. 

Finally, Wayne’s team is also working to improve the process under Part 450 regarding the “good enough” determination for pre-applications, also a COMSTAC recommendation. 

As you can see, there’s a lot going on, and while we don’t anticipate that it will slow down any time soon, I want to assure you that we aren’t letting the speed of innovation get ahead of our ability to assure safety. That won’t change. 

But what will change and evolve over time is how we regulate this fast-changing industry so that we can embrace innovation while at the same time protect public safety. 

Your advice, observations, and recommendations are a key part of that evolution as this industry continues to grow and prosper.  

Thanks for listening and thanks for your leadership and service to this agency. Have a great meeting.