More Feedback for FAA

Over at FAA/AST, Patti Smith and her crew of space transportation regulators wanted opinions, they got 'em.

Last week I looked at some of the
comments (including some very complimentary feedback) already received by the FAA and filed in the DOT docket (FAA-2005-23449) in response to the proposed Human Space Flight Requirements for Crew and Space Flight Participants.

I see a bunch more folks have now submitted comments in time to meet the Feb. 27 deadline.

Here's a sampling, in no particular order, of some of the more recent submissions:

  • Robert Millman, director of government & regulatory affairs for Blue Origin submitted five pages of succinct comments covering the definition of remote operator, and clarification of 440.17(f) (waivers), 460.9 (informing crew of risk), 460.11 (environmental control and life support systems) and 460.45 (operator informing space flight participant of risk).

  • The International Association of Space Entrepreneurs (Jim Schulz, counsel) and the Institute for Space Law and Policy (Berin Michael Szoka, executive director and general counsel), filed 12 pages of thoughtful joint comments (in a rather formal, brief-like format) including the request that the FAA "to the fullest extent possible, limit the exercise of its regulatory authority, as granted by the Act, to those areas of regulation that are truly essential to carrying out the express intent of Congress as set forth in the Act, and for which there currently exists some meaningful data or established record on which to base such regulation."

  • The Personal Spaceflight Federation (Michael S. Kelly, chairman; members: Air Launch, Armadillo Aerospace, Bigelow Aerospace, Mojave Spaceport, Rocketplane Limited, Inc., Scaled Composites, Space Adventures, SpaceDev, SpaceX, The SpaceShip Company, XCOR Aerospace, X PRIZE Foundation, Virgin Galactic) first took the opportunity to "commend FAA/AST on an outstanding accomplishment" in promulgating the NPRM and then set forth comments regarding various provisions including the definition of crew (needs to be amended), environmental control (remove "unnecessary" regulations), crew informed consent, remote operator qualifications (remove requirement for a pilot’s license), list of human vehicle accidents (must be published by the FAA), vehicle specific safety records (clarify); and the Federation urged the FAA "to consider the ITAR ramifications of any proposed requirement for describing any corrective actions taken to space flight participants."

  • Along with the comments filed by the Peronal Spaceflight Federation, Pat Hoar for Space Adventures, offered a few additional thoughts; and with regard to the FAA's statement "The FAA does not expect orbital commercial human space flight to occur in the immediate future" Pat specified: "Space Adventures notes that it has sent three space flight participants to the International Space Station since 2001 with additional orbital space flight participants currently in training. Space Adventures assumes that the FAA intended to say '…orbital commercial human space flight using non-government launch vehicles…'"

  • Bretton Alexander, VP of government relations for t/Space also objected to the language about the government not expecting orbital in the near future, and noted it created "a negative perception with the public, potential investors, and developers..." He also commended and congratulated the FAA on the proposal, then commented on remote operator qualifications, definition of crew and flight crew, informed consent, security; and he agreed with the proposal to combine 440 and 450 (which govern financial responsibility requirements for launch and reentry) saying doing so would "simplify the process of establishing maximum probable loss and cross waivers, thereby lessening the regulatory burden on the provider."

  • Taber MacCallum, CEO of Paragon Space Development Corporation commented on the environmental control and life support systems and verification program provisions.

  • The Air Line Pilots Association International agreed with the FAA that "pilots or flight crew, including any remote operators, acting under this rule should be certificated" and then suggested the regulators "implement reasonable prescriptive duty limits for all commercial flight crews to ensure that fatigue does not play an undue role in introducing human error."

  • Alaska lawyer Tracey Knutson of Knutson & Associates talked about risk, consent, waivers; and she pointed out that "regarding the Financial Responsibilities for Licensed and Permitted Activities has at § 440.3 definitions which do not include any reference to death! They refer only to bodily injury or property damage. Death should be included in the definitions and the Liability definition. This comment also goes to Appendix E to Part 440 - death should be included here; the waiver, release and assumption language here regards only bodily injury and property damage as it is currently written. My guess is that one of the biggest risks for participants is death and if the waiver language doesn't doesn't expressly seek exculpation for this risk, it can (and likely will be...) found to be ineffective for these claims."

  • (Death!? Buzzkill! Space tourists just wanna have fun!)

    And I haven't finished reading them but a bunch more comments are on the record, including from
    Spaceport Associates, as well as Association of Space Explorers – USA, Starchaser Industries and others. Take a look. Ken Wong and the lawyers at AST will no doubt appreciate how organized and thoughtful these are.

    And yes, everybody who did not comment loved every word of the NPRM.

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