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Commercial Rocket Launch Standards Released by FAA

New York, Aug 28, 2006

Seeking to pave the way for commercial space flights, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and U.S. Air Force (USAF) Space Command have published safety requirements for commercial rocket launches. The regulations harmonize industry practices and establish consistent rules for civilian and military launches of unmanned rockets, which typically are used to carry satellites into space for communications and scientific purposes.

“The consistent government approach will make expendable commercial rocket launch operations safer, more efficient and less costly,” FAA administrator Marion C. Blakey said.

Intended to strengthen public safety, the regulations put into place a formal system of safety checks and balances to identify and check potential safety issues early. The final rules include requirements for operational procedures, launch licensing, ground safety analysis, flight termination systems, and flight safety analysis.

The rules codify the safety measures enforced by the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and will apply to both government and private launch sites. The regulations will become effective September 25, 2006; compliance will be required by August 27, 2007.

A sub-agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation, the FAA licenses and regulates commercial launch and reentry activities in the United States and is responsible for facilitating and promoting private-sector commercial space launches.

Both FAA and the USAF have congressionally directed responsibilities for the safety of licensed launches from Air Force launch ranges. The FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation and USAF Space Command have partnered since 1997 to develop common launch safety requirements. Most commercial space launch activities licensed by the FAA have taken place at the national launch ranges at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL and Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA, which are both operated by USAF Space Command.

For additional information, visit the FAA website.

The final rules are available in the August 25, 2006, Federal Register.

 Homeland Defense and Security Standardization Collaborative