FAA And NASA Sign Space Travel Agreement
June 18, 2012

FAA And NASA Sign Space Travel Agreement

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com

Space just got a little closer as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and NASA have signed a historic agreement to collaborate on guidelines for space travel.

The two agencies have agreed to come up with standards and guidelines that provide a stable framework for the U.S. space industry.

Under the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed Monday, commercial space travel providers will be required to obtain a license from the FAA for public safety. Crew safety and mission assurance will be NASA's responsibility.

"This important agreement between the FAA and NASA will advance our shared goals in commercial space travel," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. "Working together, we will assure clear, consistent standards for the industry."

The agreement covers both travel to and from low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station (ISS). The standards being made will include framework to avoid conflicting requirements, and advance both public and crew safety according to NASA.

"This agreement is the next step in bringing the business of launching Americans back to American soil," Charles Bolden, NASA administrator said in a statement.

FAA Acting Administrator Michael Huerta said the Obama administration recognizes the scientific, technological and economic benefits of maintaining our country's dominance in space travel.

"This agreement between the FAA and NASA continues and advances those vital national interests," Huerta said.

NASA said the policy established in the MOU clarifies for potential commercial providers the "regulatory environment" for missions to the space station. The space agency said it also ensures that it and the FAA will have compatible processes for establishing guidelines for public safety.

The FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation has licensed 207 successful launches, including two commercial human space flights in 2004, and the recent SpaceX Dragon capsule launch.

"We are fostering private sector innovation while maintaining high standards of safety and reliability to re-establish U.S.-crewed access to low-Earth orbit, in-sourcing work to American companies and encouraging the development of dynamic and cost-effective spaceflight capabilities built to last," Bolden said in a statement.

For details on FAA commercial space transportation responsibilities, visit: http://www.faa.gov/news/fact_sheets/news_story.cfm?newsId=12179