Have FAA License Will Travel

I'm not sure I understand the point of an article this week in Flight International which carried the subheader, "Washington claims right to regulate suborbital launches made by US companies anywhere around the world" and stated, "US persons or organisations operating suborbital test flights outside the USA will still have to obtain a Federal Aviation Administration permit, according to newly proposed rules."

In fact, as AST makes clear, all commercial launches taking place within U.S. borders as well as conducted abroad by U.S. entities require FAA licenses.

I read the word "still" to mean nothing has changed. Which would be true. As Jeff Foust
correctly pointed out on his new blog, this is not "another case of imperialist American hegemony" (love it when Mr. Space politics gets political) but a continuation of existing US policy. Jeff's examples of outside U.S. launch activities licensed by FAA: Hyshot (cool scramjet), and of course, Sea Launch.

Even the FI article notes, "under existing international treaties, governments are responsible for launches made by their citizens or legal entities beyond their own borders." Correct. (Let's see...there's the
Outer Space Treaty, for starters.)

The article appears to refer to the new proposed rules on experimental permits for reusable suborbital vehicles. (OK, it's true, here in blogspace we've paid more attention to the FAA's other implementation of provisions of the CSLAA in the NPRM,
Human Space Flight Requirements for Crew and Space Flight Participants.)

First, for FAA's authority to issue rules regarding space transportation, see, 49 U.S.C. Subtitle IX, chapter 701,
49 U.S.C. 70101-70121 (Chapter 701) which provides for the Secretary of Transportation to authorize the FAA's Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation to oversee, license, and regulate both launches and reentries of launch and reentry vehicles, and the operation of launch and reentry sites when carried out by U.S. citizens or within the United States (my emphasis). Section 70105 creates the FAA's new permit authority.

And the
Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 (CSLAA) (signed into law December 23, 2004) establishes an experimental permit regime for developmental reusable suborbital rockets, which is the subject of the rulemaking.

And here are the proposed rules, briefly mentioned in Flight International:
Experimental Permits for Reusable Suborbital Rockets (14 CFR, Part 437). As set forth therein, a permit is available as an alternative to licensing for operators of reusable suborbital rockets, defined by CSLAA as vehicles "rocketpropelled in whole or in part, intended for flight on a suborbital trajectory, and the thrust of which is greater than its lift for the majority of the rocket-powered portion of ascent." 49 U.S.C. 70102. See AST's criteria for reusable suborbital rockets to be eligible for experimental permits (§ 437.5) and scope of an experimental permit (§ 437.7). Permits last for one year (apply to renew) and are not transferable. See subpart B for Requirements To Obtain an Experimental Permit.

More on the proposed rule to come. For now, under § 413.3, here is "Who must obtain a license or permit" to launch a vehicle or operate a launch site within or outside the United States, which includes a "person who is a U.S. citizen or an entity organized under the laws of the United States or any State;" and see rule about "a foreign entity in which a United States citizen has a controlling interest;" and (f) a person, individual, or foreign entity otherwise requiring a license under this section may instead obtain an experimental permit to launch or reenter a reusable suborbital rocket under part 437 of this chapter.

Read the whole proposed rule. All exercise of FAA/AST authority appears to be in keeping with US law, policy, and international treaty obligations. And the FAA, as always, welcomes comments. Submit yours electronically on DOT's docket Web site, docket number FAA-2006-24197, by May 30, 2006. No worries, you don't have to fly experimental reusable suborbital vehicles to comment.

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By the way, I must take this opportunity to congratulate Jeff on his new blog, Personal Spaceflight. Another cool Foust production.

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