FAA Forms Committee for Human Space Flight Safety Rules in Commercial Transportation Industry

FAA Forms Committee for Human Space Flight Safety Rules in Commercial Transportation Industry

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is taking a significant step to address a long-standing mandate from Congress by establishing the Human Space Flight Occupant Safety Rulemaking Committee for the Commercial Transportation Industry. With its substantial 25-member committee and comprehensive name, the agency aims to create a regulatory framework akin to FARs (Federal Aviation Regulations) to ensure the safety of space tourists and spacecraft operators.

The newly formed Aerospace Rulemaking Committee (referred to as a SpARC) is designed to engage the commercial space industry and gather consensus information, concerns, opinions, and recommendations for the Department of Transportation regarding space flight safety. The committee's primary objective is to lay the groundwork for robust regulations that prioritize the protection of crew and passengers involved in space travel, particularly in the emerging field of space tourism.

In the early 2000s, commercial space ventures, particularly those focused on space tourism, raised concerns about excessive FAA regulations hindering their progress. In response, Congress passed a law directing the FAA to adopt a more hands-off approach, only intervening in cases of fatalities, serious injuries, or near-miss incidents. Presently, the only occupant safety regulations in place involve disclosing risks to crew and passengers, who must provide informed consent through waivers.

The regulatory reprieve, initially granted until the end of 2023, is now being reevaluated as the FAA readies itself to establish new safety standards. The diverse committee consists of high-level officials from relevant government departments, academics, executives from space companies, industry representatives, medical experts, and one unaffiliated individual, Mike Ryschkewitsch, former chief engineer for NASA, representing himself on the committee. Through this collaborative effort, the FAA aims to develop comprehensive and effective regulations to ensure the safety of human space flight participants in the commercial space industry.
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