Letter to the Editor: CSF’s position on launch and reentry licensing regulations mischaracterized

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CSF and our member companies strongly support regulations that protect the lives and property of the uninvolved public.

On Oct. 8, SpaceNews published in its weekly SN Military Space newsletter an article about FAA’s efforts to reform its launch and reentry licensing regulations. Commercial Spaceflight Federation leadership was not contacted in advance of the article being published, and the article erroneously characterizes CSF’s and its member companies’ position on FAA’s proposed licensing regulations.

“CSF and our member companies strongly support — and always have supported — regulations that protect the lives and property of the uninvolved public. At the same time, we pursue the goal of streamlining the licensing process to help the commercial space sector grow and innovate, continuously improving its capabilities and its safety,” said CSF president Eric Stallmer. “Any other characterization of CSF’s position is disingenuous, misleading, and false.”

CSF specifically corrects the following misstatements in the referenced SpaceNews article:

“The CSF, for example, argues that regulations should discriminate between expendable launchers, reusable launchers, and air-launched space vehicles.”

CSF’s position is exactly the opposite. FAA’s existing regulations currently are divided into separate sections for expendable launch vehicles, reusable launch vehicles, and reentry vehicles. CSF strongly supports streamlining these disparate sections into one licensing regime that is applicable to all launch and reentry vehicles, regardless of architecture. This was an important directive from the Administration in Space Policy Directive-2 and CSF wholly supports this effort.

“LoBiondo argues that commercial players are hurting their cause by continuing to push back on the FAA, which will delay the issuing of the final rule. That means it will take longer to achieve important goals such as returning U.S. astronauts to the moon and reaching Mars.”

CSF understands that FAA and industry are under great time pressures to finalize this rulemaking. No one is more eager than CSF’s members to see this reform effort completed and new rules implemented that improve the safety and success of the industry. After all, it was CSF that initiated discussions of potential reforms with the FAA two and a half years ago. FAA can meet an aggressive timeline without compromising the substance of the new rules, and that has been CSF’s position since the beginning of this effort. Most importantly, there is absolutely no connection between the timing of FAA’s new regulations and the return of U.S. astronauts to the Moon or Mars. The new rules do not touch FAA’s human spaceflight regulations, and FAA’s current rules do not prevent flight of American astronauts from U.S. soil.

CSF thanks former Congressman LoBiondo for his service and continuing interest on this topic, but found it important to correct the Congressman’s statements about the position of CSF’s member companies. Those companies comprise the vast majority of FAA licensed activities in this industry and they best understand the important implications of these new rules. CSF and its members look forward to supporting FAA’s efforts to finalize this rulemaking in a manner that prioritizes safety, promotes technological advancements, and streamlines the licensing process.

For those interested in an accurate and more detailed explanation of CSF’s position on the regulatory reform, please click here for CSF’s official comments.