Congress, Other

Congress planning an update to commercial launch legislation this year

While a planned reauthorization of NASA this year is attracting headlines, another space-related priority for members of Congress this year is a reauthorization of the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) and an update of the Commercial Space Launch Act. At FAA/AST’s annual conference last week, members of Congress and their staffs outlined several potential changes to existing legislation, from an extension of launch indemnification to granting the office authority for regulating on-orbit activities.

“I would suggest we could look forward to, at long last, a reauthorization of the Office of Commercial Space Transportation,” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), vice-chairman of the House Science Committee, in a speech at the conference Wednesday. “It’s becoming very evident even to members of Congress that this industry is critical and we need to reauthorize that legislation.”

One issue will be the “evolving role of the FAA in regulating safety,” said Ann Zulkosky, senior professional staff on the Senate Commerce Committee, during a panel session at the conference Wednesday afternoon. AST retains its role in protecting the uninvolved public, but is restricted by law from promulgating regulations covering the safety of spaceflight participants. That provision, included in the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act (CSLAA) of 2004, the last major update to commercial launch legislation, was set to expire last December, but an FAA reauthorization bill last year extended it until October 2015.

Another issue, Zulkosky said, would be the issue of on-orbit authority. AST currently has the ability to regulate launches and reentries, but activities in space after launch and before reentry fall into a gray area, with no single agency having oversight or other authority for all activities. (Some agencies do have specific authority on some issues, like the FCC on spacecraft communications.) “We’ll certainly be having conversations with FAA as we look to update legislation in this area,” she said, noting that some in industry had proposed giving FAA that authority.

Another topic that will likely either be included in any reauthorization, or done in parallel with it, is another extension of the commercial launch indemnification system. That system was extended for only one year in legislation passed early last month, although the original House version of the bill had included a two-year extension.

“We would love to see it extended for a long period,” said Chris Kunstadter of XL Insurance, the chairman of the Business Legal Working Group of the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC), an industry group that advises FAA/AST, at the conference on Thursday. One issue is the calculation of the “maximum probable loss” to third parties in the event of a launch accident, a level to which launch licensees are liable for, with the government indemnifying any losses above that level. FAA and COMSTAC will look for ways to improve the accuracy of that calculation over the next several months, he said.

One key industry official welcomed plans to examine these and other issues with current commercial launch law. “It is something that should be reopened and looked at in the context of the current state of play,” said Tim Hughes, vice president and chief counsel of SpaceX, during a conference panel Wednesday. Hughes helped draft the CSLAA as a staff member of the House Science Committee back in 2004, and he said they didn’t anticipate then some developments that have taken place since that bill’s passage. “It was not contemplated that there would be commercial entities carrying NASA astronauts to the International Space Station,” he said.

Rohrabacher said that it remained vital that FAA recognize that commercial spaceflight is still an emerging industry and not over-regulate it. He noted that the Office of Commercial Space Transportation was originally placed directly under the Secretary of Transportation, and only later moved to the FAA. “The culture of the FAA is based on a mandate to protect passenger safety,” he said, but argued that commercial spaceflight, being far less mature than aviation, requires a different regulatory philosophy. “That’s a very different mandate and a very different approach, but it’s necessary for us to recognize that if we are to be successful in moving the industry forward.”

Rohrabacher said that FAA was, for the time being, doing a good job treating aviation and spaceflight differently, but warned he would seek action to move the office out of the FAA should the situation change. “Ultimately, if that proves too difficult for the FAA to reconcile, we may end up having to move this whole job back to the office of the Secretary of Transportation.”

99 comments to Congress planning an update to commercial launch legislation this year

  • JimNobles

    I wonder how big a battle it will be to keep the SLS politicos from trying to grab the money for commercial. Like it would be enough to help their jobs program significantly…

    • amightywind

      The NASA organization is about to embark on what I call a game of ‘musical chairs to the death’, as divisions jostle over shrinking funding. It is familiar to anyone in the private sector where projects come and go periodically. Some workers survive, some move on to better things. It is healthy and natural in all enterprises, where human capital seeks its most efficient deployment. All enterprises except our rotted government, that is. After 5 years the recession is finally going to visit NASA workers, and its none too soon.

    • Jeff Foust

      SLS and commercial crew funding are separate issues from the reauthorization of FAA/AST and any update to the CSLA.

  • nom de plume

    Jim, I think any financial impacts from commercial launch legislation will more likely come from SLS advocates lobbying for the Commercial Space Launch Act and the FAA to add impediments to the approval process to reach commercial milestones. If they can constipate the process under the guise of improving safety and reducing liability, then maybe they can delay schedules and cause commercial launch to be more expensive thereby less cost-competitive with SLS.

    • JimNobles

      So the danger, if any, comes from the possibility of onerous regulatory harassment rather than funding. Thanks for clearing that up for me. I should have read more carefully.

  • “I have a bad feeling about this.” — every Star Wars film ever made.

  • Pretty much off-topic but off tangential interest …

    National Space Society Executive Director Paul Damphousse has resigned suddenly.

    His resignation letter is at:

    http://images.spaceref.com/news/2013/pd.nss.pdf

    During the last year in this role it has become abundantly clear, however, that
    as long as elements of the existing leadership of the NSS continue to pursue
    courses of action — and perpetuate an atmosphere — that are not in the best
    interests of the Society, the challenges the organization face will become
    insurmountable.

    Goodness.

    Maybe it’s a coincidence, but this comes at the same time that NSS was fundraising for its own space documentary. I have to wonder if, behind the scenes, he thought this was a waste of time and money.

    Presumably we’ll find out sooner or later what happened.

    • Robert G. Oler

      Stephen

      aside from perpetual bad leadership (which Paul was an exception to) NSS suffers from the same maladies that affect most “space enthusiast” ie the “I want to go” meme so well every space effort is great and there is no real leadership toward any sort of real space politics much less any real emphasis on thoughtful space policy.

      Go to Dennis Wingo’s blog and he is trying (although he misses the mark on Mahan) to come up with a notion of what constitutes true space policy. Paul Spudis thinks its “some goal” (preferably his) but its not…it is some sort of notion of how Spaceflight (human) fits into national policy.

      NSS is stuck trying to sell the sizzle of space because in large measure that is what its members like…

      Wingo’s theories are at least along the correct line; ie there has to be some “doctrine” that programs are metriced by…but again I am not for sure he has thought through Mahan all that well or married it to present day circumstances…but at least he seems to recognize the problem

      Robert G. Oler

    • Jeff Foust

      Since this is off topic, please discuss it elsewhere. Comments here should be on the topic of the post only. Thank you for your cooperation.

  • Neil Shipley

    Not sure what Rohrabacher’s issue with the FAA would be but seems to be the right place for handling commercial spaceflight.

    They currently handle, per Wiki:
    “Regulating U.S. commercial space transportation
    Regulating air navigation facilities’ geometry and flight inspection standards
    Encouraging and developing civil aeronautics, including new aviation technology
    Issuing, suspending, or revoking pilot certificates
    Regulating civil aviation to promote safety, especially through local offices called Flight Standards District Offices
    Developing and operating a system of air traffic control and navigation for both civil and military aircraft
    Researching and developing the National Airspace System and civil aeronautics
    Developing and carrying out programs to control aircraft noise and other environmental effects of civil aviation”

    I’m not familiar with the Department of Transport however seems like FAA is better placed to handle space since that has at least some semblance of simulatity with air transportation.

    per Wiki : Its mission is to “Serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible, and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future.”

    Just so long as no one suggests NASA, except of course, they get to handle things from the ISS side.

    • Robert G. Oler

      The FAA will do a fine job. They have many faults but one of them is not being able to balance Risk/regulation/rewards…they (the FAA) does it well and the sooner they take over all aspects of space regulation regarding human flight in the US the better things will be. RGO

    • As I suggest in my forthcoming book:

      The Office of Commercial Space Transportation (OCST), currently located within FAA and often referred to by its internal code designation as FAA-AST, should be taken from under the FAA administrator and reconstituted as a separate agency of the DOT, reporting directly to the Secretary of Transportation as do normal DOT agencies. The OCST was originally constituted as a special office within the Office of the Secretary of Transportation as an interim measure under President Reagan’s executive order of 1983, codified by subsequent legislation in 1984. It was moved under the FAA early in the Clinton administration as a result of Vice President Gore’s “streamlining government” initiative. Giving it independent status would both elevate the national importance of space transportation, and remove it from the routine-transportation, common-carrier-oriented safety environment of the FAA, which (as previously mentioned) lost its role in the promotion of the aviation industry in the wake of the ValuJet crash in the late nineties. Additionally, consideration should be given to relocating to such an agency various routine space-transportation-related infrastructure and operational responsibilities located in other agencies where they are peripheral to those agencies’ main purpose and function and often suffer from inattention and low priorities.

      Rohrabacher has read a draft (and given me a blurb), and I suspect that’s what he is thinking.

      • Coastal Ron

        Rand Simberg said:

        Rohrabacher has read a draft (and given me a blurb), and I suspect that’s what he is thinking.

        I’m hoping that he is able to do a lot of the behind-the-scenes type advocating that it will take to get these types of solutions included in future legislation.

      • Robert G. Oler

        There is nothing in that “blurb” of yours that indicates the FAA is incapable or not competent to do the job it is doing…that things have gotten as far as they have is a tribute to the FAA and its organization. RGO

  • There is nothing in that “blurb” of yours that indicates the FAA is incapable or not competent to do the job it is doing

    Competence isn’t the issue. Institutional incentives are. And the blurb wasn’t about the FAA, so I guess your reading comprehension is right down to par.

    • Neil Shipley

      Sorry but I don’t understand what you mean by ‘institutional incentives’?
      In addition, space is to a large extent commercialised already in the form of the satellite industry, and the writing is on the wall that it will become more so, not less.

      It therefore makes sense to me that you encourage the development of routine operations rather than treat them as anything special and in doing so, you should be able to improve safety in operations not lessen it.
      A classic example of this was the Shuttle which seemed to operate as a special case or experimential vehicle rather than a routine one leading to all the problems that it suffered including a reduction in safety.

      That means, at least to me, that the FAA is the most appropriate place to have commercial space licencing and all that goes along with it.

      Things like ‘… elevating national importance…’ and ‘…remove it from the routine-transportation, common-carrier-oriented safety environment of the FAA …’ seem like backward steps to me.

      • Robert G. Oler

        Neil…exactly

        The FAA has a long history (with the CAA) of balancing the notion of technology/economics/and risk to form a pretty decent safety standard no matter what era in history one looks at aviation in this country.

        For instance pre the DC-3/Boeing247 (and a few other) era, there was no point about being concerned with the ability of a plane to accelerate to a point in the takeoff run, have an engine fail and continue the takeoff run…at a reasonable takeoff “weight”. The technology was simply not capable of producing such a plane. But as technology moved on eventually the ability of a 12,500 pound or higher airplane to do just that, came into the certification process.

        Had the FAA been involved in a regulatory way in the shuttle, it would have stopped the Challenger accident (at least) because it would not have allowed flight to continue with the violation of the primary O ring by SRB gas. There is frequent discussion of this event (and Columbia) at FAA safety meetings (I was on a panel that did it last year) in OKC. Columbia is a bit more “iffy” but not the O rings.

        This is not a technology issue it is a management one and the FAA is adept at those issues.

        There is an element of “Lay person” understanding of the risk here as well. It does not take to much research pre DC-3 days (or even Boeing 707 days if you want to discuss overwater flying) to recognize that the public who was flying on these planes in larger and larger numbers had a “grasp” for the risk.

        It will be that way with human spaceflight if human spaceflight can find a cost/value reason to generate large numbers of passengers. RGO

      • What I mean by institutional incentives is that since the Valujet crash in the late nineties, the charter of the FAA is no longer to promote the industry, but rather is totally focused on safety. That is acceptable in an industry in which the public has an expectation of getting on an aircraft and getting off at the other end with less chance of dying than they had driving to the airport.

        Space is in a different place. It’s more akin to the 1920s, when there were lots of experiments being performed, lots of people were dying, and no one knew what the best way was to do things. They didn’t even know how many wings planes should have. The spaceflight industry is in a fragile state, and overregulation could kill it.

        AST needs to be pulled back out of the FAA, so it can once again try to balance the promotion of the industry with passenger safety, which the FAA is no longer allowed to do, though it did so for decades, to help the industry grow.

        • Robert G. Oler

          Rand Simberg orates.

          “What I mean by institutional incentives is that since the Valujet crash in the late nineties, the charter of the FAA is no longer to promote the industry, but rather is totally focused on safety. That is acceptable in an industry in which the public has an expectation of getting on an aircraft and getting off at the other end with less chance of dying than they had driving to the airport.”

          OK Rand, you wrote that and it makes no sense.

          First off except for the very very early days of aviation there was never as large a chance of “dying” in aviation as there was in the trip to the airport. And worse for your argument, there has never been that ratio existing in human spaceflight. Lots of people are “not dying” in human spaceflight. There have been exactly 14 “flying” deaths in the US and all of those are directly attributable to a dysfunctional NASA not a failure of any regulatory agency.

          Of course right now there is no real non government flight into space; but so far the suborbital efforts by many seem to be promoting well, there seems to be no one but you ok no one of consequence saying that federal regulations are hurting the promotion of spaceflight…infact the suborbital people seem to be linning them up pretty well…

          so that “argument” is negated.

          the second thing is that the FAA “promotion” of aviation had little or nothing to do with the success of aviation or their ability to monitor “safety”…it was used as an argument during the Value Jet crash when the people making it could find no other reason to place blame on the FAA instead of where it belonged “Valujet” for violating several (MANY) FAR’s and hazmat carry rules.

          I have this sinking feeling that you dont even understand the issue of “promoting aviation” and regulating it was in the time of the Valujet “event”.

          But those inept statements aside your “logical” abilities run completely aground here.

          You wrote this

          “AST needs to be pulled back out of the FAA, so it can once again try to balance the promotion of the industry with passenger safety,”

          but then in another post there is (Perhaps it is by another Rand Simberg?)

          “Why, at this point, should it be different for passenger safety?”

          You seem to state as a fact that inside the FAA there is an imbalance between the promotion of the industry and passenger safety…you present no proof, no coherent argument or examples that this is the case.

          when it is apparent what your real motives are is to imply that there should BE ABSOLUTELY NO REGULATIONS REGARDING PASSENGER SAFETY IN SPACECRAFT. (or how else should we interpret that last quote?)

          First off there is no evidence that the FAA is tilting in any real direction concerning spaceflight passenger safety or industry regulation. Do you have some or is this just another Rand Simberg opinion stated as fact…

          Second there should be regulation of passenger safety in spaceflight just as in the 20′s there were regulations concerning passenger safety…they were appropriate ones and there is zero evidence that this stifled aviation development.

          Is the rest of your book filled with similiar logic “bombs”?

          so far total fail…wow you sent this to Dana R? Must be laughing his ass off.

          Robert G. Oler

        • pathfinder_01

          FAA has different regulations for different types of aircraft and their uses.
          Also in the case of Value jet the root cause was improperly stored cargo and no fire detection system in the cargo hold. Part of becoming safer is learning what does go wrong and having rules in place to make sure that does not happen again. In fact many safety rules are caused by tragedy. Sure people will die in space but we also don’t want more people to die from the same exact cause if a simple change with stop that.
          “They didn’t even know how many wings planes should have. The spaceflight industry is in a fragile state, and overregulation could kill it.”

          Not quite. The amount of lift a wing will generate is proportional to its length (the longer the wing the more lift it makes). A biplane generates more lift than a single wing. The reason for the biplane isn’t because they didn’t know how many wings a plane should have. It is because there were limits to how long you could make a wing using simple wooden construction and even some of the early metal biplanes don’t have the correct structure to allow a wing length that would generate as much lift as a monoplane.

          The advantage a Single wing planes is in drag reduction (i.e. they can go faster with a given amount of power).It was only when they could make metal aircraft that were light enough did the monoplane dominate over the biplane as it could be faster. This took advancements in both materials and structure.

          Also the first federal laws regulating safety come about in 1926 which probably gives you an idea of just how long that industry remained unregulated and it was the companies that pushed the law because they felt a safe industry was good for business. While orbital and suborbital flights will have accidents and deaths there needs to be a certain amount of safety or else the industry will not grow. IMHO the FAA is just fine for regulating commercial space flight.

          • Also the first federal laws regulating safety come about in 1926 which probably gives you an idea of just how long that industry remained unregulated and it was the companies that pushed the law because they felt a safe industry was good for business.

            Yes, I discuss that in the book.

      • One other point:

        In addition, space is to a large extent commercialised already in the form of the satellite industry, and the writing is on the wall that it will become more so, not less.

        You may not be aware, but the FAA has absolutely no responsibility for mission success for satellite launches.

        Let me repeat that.

        The FAA has absolutely no responsibility for mission success for satellite launches.

        They do not care if a satellite gets into orbit. That is the responsibility of the launch provider, and the launch provider alone.

        Their only responsibility is to ensure that no uninvolved person on the ground is killed by a launch event, and that other national needs are not breached.

        Why, at this point, should it be different for passenger safety?

        • Neil Shipley

          Ok, I can see why the FAA wouldn’t be concerned with mission success since that lies rightly so with the launch provider and satellite manufacturer however it still appears that in the case of people, the FAA has a significant, in fact, pivotal role to play.
          Point of fact is that it is currently their responsibility to ensure safe systems and processes and licence accordingly commercial spaceflight. Just as they do both for air now, seems logical that they do both for space.

          I imagine both points of view have their pros and cons. Guess the question at this point is, how are they going both with air transport and their current space responsibilities.

          I did notice that Congress I think, refused to increase their budgets to cover additional work in the space arena last year, so seems to me that limited response to space at this point has some externalities in play.

          I’d hazard a guess that, as with it seems, most things concerning space, lobbying is endemic.

          • Point of fact is that it is currently their responsibility to ensure safe systems and processes and licence accordingly commercial spaceflight.

            No, it is not. Not for passenger safety. In fact, they are prohibited by law from doing so until at least 2015.

        • DCSCA

          “In addition, space is to a large extent commercialised already in the form of the satellite industry, and the writing is on the wall that it will become more so, not less.” said Rand.

          It a utility. And those ‘orbits of value’ are quite ceowded. Space is also militarized– perhaps to a larger extent. Satellites have nothing to do w/HSF beyond weathe and communications functions, Where lives are at stake, not hardware, government prevails. That wrrting is not only on the wall, it is in history books.

          • “In addition, space is to a large extent commercialised already in the form of the satellite industry, and the writing is on the wall that it will become more so, not less.” said Rand.

            I didn’t write that. I quoted it. And you don’t know how to read, not that that’s news.

  • Robert G. Oler

    “Giving it independent status would both elevate the national importance of space transportation, and remove it from the routine-transportation, common-carrier-oriented safety environment of the FAA, which (as previously mentioned) lost its role in the promotion of the aviation industry in the wake of the ValuJet crash in the late nineties. ”

    this paragraph, if representative of the rest of the book, means that I’ll catch it like I did Palin’s tomes …on the 1 dollar shelf

    All the paragraph shows is that Simberg knows absolutely nothing of the FAA. (I am not an employee of the FAA, I am a designated examiner and DER with the FAA and do contract work outside of those two regimes for them)

    The FAA does not have a ‘common carrier” approach to safety. What it has is an approach to safety which is to regulate aircraft operations (as well as the ATC system), technology (ie certification) of aircraft and air traffic control, and airman certification and regulation. The issue of Part 121 (airline aka common carrier), 135 or 91 in terms of airplane operations is immaterial.

    These are precisely the type of activities that will be needed in any sort of “space future” where commercial space operates outside of a NASA framework, which internally tries to do in some fashion all three of those functions.

    The expertise needed to deal with the technical aspects of commercial space that are different then aviation is either in the FAA or available to them; but the main issues are more management then anything else.

    Throughout its history the FAA has demonstrated a fairly deft ability to balance technology, safety, and economics. One might argue that the Dreamliner certification came under heavy pressure from Boeing and its customers…but the FAA has responded appropriately to safety concerns that operations have raised.

    If anything the FAA’s hand in this should be strengthened and it regulatory/safety oversight extended.

    Rand is a smart guy in his field, but out of it he doesnt have a clue and he is overwhelmed with right wing politics. An independent agency would be just the wrong prescription. It would be 1) the dumping ground of ex NASA and industry people (one can see Linda H going there), there would be a struggle of control between serving industry or “passenger” interest, and it would be an extremely minor player in the scheme of federal agencies with to quote Cheney “second rate talent”.

    Worse Rand cannot demonstrate a single reason why there should be a different agency except rhetoric.

    Robert G. Oler

    • DCSCA

      “Throughout its history the FAA has demonstrated a fairly deft ability to balance technology, safety, and economics. One might argue that the Dreamliner certification came under heavy pressure from Boeing and its customers…but the FAA has responded appropriately to safety concerns that operations have raised.

      If anything the FAA’s hand in this should be strengthened and it regulatory/safety oversight extended.”

      Well said, RGO. Well said.

    • This word salad is one of many reasons why my time of taking the illiterate and ungrammatical and unable-to-read-simple-English Robert G. Oler not seriously is way past, many years past, a middle.

      I see no need to respond to someone who was clearly incapable of responding to things that I did not write, and didn’t understand what I did write, including his always moronic references to “right wing” and Sarah Palin. Anyone who thinks that those are relevant topics to discussions of space policy is as lunatic as he is.

      • Neil Shipley

        Hi Rand. Does seem like RGO has some insight into the organisation, ‘word salad’ notwithstanding!

      • DCSCA

        “references to “right wing” and Sarah Palin. Anyone who thinks that those are relevant topics to discussions of space policy…” etc., etc., balks Rand.

        Rxcept they are. Especially as you and your affiliations advocate government privatization policies not only in spaceflight ops, but across the board, in league w/Walker, Gingrich, et al. It’s a mainstay of rxtremist ‘right wing’ politics for decades. =eyeroll=

    • Worse Rand cannot demonstrate a single reason why there should be a different agency except rhetoric.

      Just noticed this hilariously stupid comment.

      “Rhetoric” is traditionally how one convinces people of things.

      • Robert G. Oler

        Rand Simberg
        February 12, 2013 at 11:29 am · Reply

        “Rhetoric” is traditionally how one convinces people of things>>

        yes in Fox News world but in the world the rest of us live in “facts” are how one convinces people of things

        RGO

        • Did Fox News scare your mother when you were in the womb, too, like Sarah Palin must have?

          Sorry, but I offered facts. That you can’t understand them, and are ignorant about the current policy is your problem, not mine.

    • Oh, I just noticed this monumental stupidity:

      Rand is a smart guy in his field, but out of it he doesnt have a clue and he is overwhelmed with right wing politics. An independent agency would be just the wrong prescription. It would be 1) the dumping ground of ex NASA and industry people (one can see Linda H going there), there would be a struggle of control between serving industry or “passenger” interest, and it would be an extremely minor player in the scheme of federal agencies with to quote Cheney “second rate talent”.

      My views on space policy have little/nothing to do with “right wing politics” (whatever that stupid phrase is supposed to mean).

      And no one proposed an “independent agency.” Again, learn to read. It would simply restore the office to the situation prior to when Gore screwed it up twenty years ago, and allow it once again to report directly to the Secretary of Transportation, and not be buried in an agency that doesn’t share its charter to promote the industry. The personnel wouldn’t change, and it wouldn’t be a “dumping ground” any more than it already is. This commentary is so ignorant that I can’t believe it, even considering the source.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Rand Simberg in excerpts from his book and on this thread has put a lot of emphasis on the Valujet 592 crash and some comments after it particularly by Mary Schiavo. As self disclosure I participated in a minor form in the NTSB investigation as a subject matter expert on crew performance and the DC-9 I was one of the crews who “flew the box” replicating the actions of the crew and the CVR.

    Rands essential argument, in his own words is “AST needs to be pulled back out of the FAA, so it can once again try to balance the promotion of the industry with passenger safety”

    which would seem to argue that there is “now” no balance between the two.goofy

    the Valujet crash if anything argued for “more” regulation and oversight, the argument being by some, mostly people who were trying to protect the contractors that this one incident alone proved ValuJet was “unsafe” when in reality this incident alone was a result of faulty actions by contractors, contractors who were later indicted both as companies and individuals and while the individual actors were found not guilty, the company SabreTech was the first company indicted in an issue of airline safety or accidents. (and it paid a fine for it)

    the argument about “splitting the conflict of interest” is stupid because if SabreTech had followed accepted FARs and Hazmat the aircraft would have been ok.

    the argument about the conflict of interest was based on the requirements (or lack of them then) for smoke detectors in Class D cargo containers. IE the need for more regulation.

    What Simberg is really arguing for is “no regulation” on passengers in spaceflight. This is clear from his statement “Their only responsibility is to ensure that no uninvolved person on the ground is killed by a launch event, and that other national needs are not breached.

    Why, at this point, should it be different for passenger safety?”

    Simberg should flat out answer the question, does he think that there should be any regulation at all for passenger carriage in space.

    Now it is perfectly fine to have that argument (I think that there should be appropriate regulations) but the Valujet crash taht Simberg hangs his rhetoric on …clearly argues for more and that the “conflict of interest” he does not understand…is an argument as to why the FAA did not regulate more.

    There might be more in his book, but what he has posted here is just completely off the mark.

    Robert G. Oler

    • DCSCA

      “What Simberg is really arguing for is “no regulation” on passengers in spaceflight, noted RGO.”

      That’s about right, Robert– and it’s consistent w/ extreme ‘right wing’ philosophy as you well know== to deregulate everything and privatize as much govern ment ops as possible, not just spaceflight. Assuming it is not a self-publishing project, who the publisher is and the run quantity will tell all. And he’s on record on this forum long ago valuing hardware over crew/passenger safety.

      Your comments on ValuJet and SabreTech are good. “when in reality this incident alone was a result of faulty actions by contractors” is spot on. If memory serves, your notation on failure to follow hazmat regs are accurate as well.

      For instance, using Space X as an example, the pitch for no regs frees the contractor from blame in that if NASA ‘hires’ a Dragon and Space X fry a crew, NASA takes the heat, not Space X– which to the public will be the perception anyway- similar to the blame game played after the Apollo fire. But legally it would get the privateer off the hook for the mosdt part. Coommercial space should be capable of adapying and operating w/FAA-styled regs for LEO ops. Those regs could be eased for any BEO ops they’d atetmpt. But LEO can be regulated by the FAA. Back in the day, forerunner CAA managed to corral the barnstormers, regulate and license aviation into a safer and growing industry. Commercial space will have to adapt to same,

      • Robert G. Oler

        DCSCA wrote and

        Dark Blue Nine responded…
        February 12, 2013 at 11:39 am · Reply

        This is ignorant. NASA flights to ISS or anywhere else — on Shuttle, Soyuz, or Dragon — are not subject to FAA “regs”.??

        they are not now, but at some point well things will change.

        As it stands now NASA is essentially “public using” SpaceX and eventually OSC for cargo and eventually SpaceX and someone else or elses for crew.

        BUT that situation will not last long; indeed I will be surprised if it last more then a couple of years.

        before long one has to “hope” that NASA becomes “just another rider” on a more or less “common carrier” lift/return vehicle. Put it another way, NASA does and will treat (more or less I realize that there are some differences here) the vehicles to ISS as they do their G’s…they are public use airplanes maintained in accordance with federal law and letters of agreement. I will be surprised and indeed it will be a policy disaster if that last long and at some point the “NASA” people become more riders on the Southwest jet…ie a capsule/something carring people to ISS or whereever and some of them are “NASA” people.

        This will change “quickly” if there are Bigelow stations because unlike ISS where the only federal employees are NASA people there will at some point be non NASA people who are federal or other employees flying to those stations (or Bigelow will quickly go out of business)

        At some point in all of these there will be some event that either causes the loss of a person or in some other way fires up litigation…and as I noted to Simberg the quickest way to stop high value and hence costly insured people from flying on commercial products in space is to have no way to recover their value if they die or are otherwise “reduced in value” (to use the stark term).

        I do not foresee a situation in the future where NASA does not have input on how vehicles operate as they approach/depart fly coorbit with etc ISS, but that is like any other federal facility. Bigelow will, if they get their vehicle up have a similar “interest”…but the vehicles that come and go themselves will eventually drop off of being “backstopped” by the folks at NASA and will at somepoint assume a life of their own.

        Someone is going to have to regulate that.

        Interesting comments. RGO

        • DCSCA

          Well said, Robert- You are correct– and if dbn/tommy read it correctly, he’d see it was a hypothetical – ‘for instance’— ‘example’ and the panicked indignation in the response only serves to reveal that’s exactly what they’re aiming for- no regs, no government obstavles– just access to the Treasury for subsidies.

          The FAA could handle it well and irony is it would be in commercial’s interest to embrace it. Their opposition is in pattern w/opposition to all things goverrnment– which is the true motivations of the interests behind it all. Spaceflight is just another soft target for them.

    • What Simberg is really arguing for is “no regulation” on passengers in spaceflight.

      I’m arguing for maintaining the status quo. There is currently no regulation of safety for passengers in spaceflight, other than informed consent, per the CSLAA. That you are apparently unaware of this is yet another reason to not take you seriously.

      • Robert G. Oler

        Rand Simberg
        February 12, 2013 at 10:18 am · Reply

        I’m arguing for maintaining the status quo. There is currently no regulation of safety for passengers in spaceflight, other than informed consent, per the CSLAA.>>

        there is NO evidence and you present none that this status quo is likely or going to change at any point.

        But moving on to the discussion at hand

        One sure fire way to “kill” commercial flight of people in the US is the dual sword of no liability and no regulations.

        You write

        “They do not care if a satellite gets into orbit. That is the responsibility of the launch provider, and the launch provider alone.” that is accurate on its face but only partially so

        Who “cares” and has a large input as to how a “satellite gets into orbit” is the insurance companies. This is accurate not only for the satellite but the launch vehicle system. Insurance companies have large technical staffs that interface with the manufactors of both satellites and launch vehicles …and when there is a failure it is the insurance companies and the ability to get insurance that determines in large measure if the satellite/launch vehicle either continues period or the modifications to it.

        If Sea Launch “comes back” will in large measure depend on if the insurance companies can be persuaded along those lines. SpaceX is involved in satisfying NASA about its “issue” on the last flight; but they are also working the folks who will carry the insurance on the payloads and vehicle to do just that.

        NOW segue to human spaceflight. What the limits on liability are trying to do is to remove the insurance “oversight” of such flight. What has forced some airlines in the US to make changes after rather goofy crashes (the latest is Cogan) is the twin fact of federal regulation AND insurance pressure to “fix” some issues.

        Simberg’s argument fails on several fronts

        First it is a problem seeking a solution. He cannot demonstrate that the FAA has or is planning any real “stoppers” to the expansion of commercial human spaceflight

        Second what he is arguing for; neither regulation (and in other venues a cap or release on liability) will in itself stop/slow the progress of these efforts

        The first and for sometime “anchor” customers are going to be “the well heeled”; people who have personal insurance policies that govern their behavior in terms of preserving their value. Without some notion of liability recovery in the event of malfeasance and/or some regulation which overseas companies from making “challenger” like mistakes…the industry will collapse.

        Simberg’s argument is self described “rhetoric”…devoid of any facts. RGO

        • One sure fire way to “kill” commercial flight of people in the US is the dual sword of no liability and no regulations.

          Since there is liability and regulations, once again, you display your profound ignorance.

        • there is NO evidence and you present none that this status quo is likely or going to change at any point.

          If you weren’t so clueless, you would know that the moratorium is due to expire in less than three years. That is a “fact.”

        • DCSCA

          “One sure fire way to “kill” commercial flight of people in the US is the dual sword of no liability and no regulations.”

          Yep. Well said, RGO– and mimimal exposure to same is the extreme right wing’s goal- not just in space ops but business and commerce activities across the board.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “For instance, using Space X as an example, the pitch for no regs frees the contractor from blame in that if NASA ‘hires’ a Dragon and Space X fry a crew, NASA takes the heat, not Space X…”

    This is ignorant. NASA flights to ISS or anywhere else — on Shuttle, Soyuz, or Dragon — are not subject to FAA “regs”.

    Duh…

  • NASA flights to ISS or anywhere else — on Shuttle, Soyuz, or Dragon — are not subject to FAA “regs”.

    Well, they do require a launch license. But there are no FAA regs for crew safety. For an ISS mission, that’s up to NASA oversight.

    • pathfinder_01

      There are also a few safty regs on the shuttle that were FAA related like the back up crew oxygen system and the shuttle used an older kind of air traffic control type system the FAA was attemtping to promote but for the most part very few FAA regs on the shuttle(and rightly so as it simply carried NASA astronuants who were experts at spaceflight and it’s risks). IMHO to carry tourists and passengers they need regulations to make sure the industry doesn’t shoot itself in the foot.

  • JimNobles

    .
    This thing has gotten so nasty in places it’s hard for someone like me, who really doesn’t understand the issues, to follow the logic and try to learn it.

    Just sayin’

    I’ll shut up now.

    • Robert G. Oler

      Jim I apologize for anything I have done to lower the level of discussion

      the issue is pretty simple…how to best regulate a growing industry so that there is a min level of oversight and a standardization in terms of the service that is provided.

      No regulation is essentially “every person for themselves” ie if “you” buy a ticket on a commercial spaceflight provider then you essentially have to take their word that the vehicles are built to some level of safety, their crews trained to some baseline level and that there are in the event of some problem a min level of safety equipment on board.

      Or will there be some minimium oversight; this in my view is good as long as it is not repressive;because in large measure it lifts liability and also standardizes products across the board.

      here is a for instance…what are the requirements for pilot training on SpaceShip2?

      Now I have no doubt at least for the start that these will be overdone…but you get my drift RGO

      • here is a for instance…what are the requirements for pilot training on SpaceShip2?

        If you’d actually read the CSLAA, you’d know the answer to that question.

        But you’d rather ignorantly rant about right wingers, Fox News and Sarah Palin.

        • Robert G. Oler

          I do know the answer, that is why I said what I said. RGO

          • I do know the answer, that is why I said what I said. RGO

            Really? You asked the question because you knew the answer to the question?

            And you accuse me of “logic bombs”?

            And after all these years, you still feel a need to put your initials at the end of your post, as though we can’t tell from the headers who wrote it? I suppose I should at least be thankful that you at least used a little punctuation first.

  • Casey Stedman

    JimNobles, I agree with you. While I support the discourse and diversity opinion, these comment sections often turn toxic with the personal attacks.

  • Neil Shipley

    Yes, I agree. Personal attacks are not what we should be about.

    Back to the discussion. I’ll just repost the first line of the wiki synopsis of the FAA ““Regulating U.S. commercial space transportation”.

    So far I’ve haven’t seen an argument that convinces me that the FAA shouldn’t undertake this for all aspects of space transportation – cargo and human alike.

    I asked Rand why the FAA shouldn’t undertake these activities and he responded with:

    “The Office of Commercial Space Transportation (OCST), currently located within FAA and often referred to by its internal code designation as FAA-AST, should be taken from under the FAA administrator and reconstituted as a separate agency of the DOT, reporting directly to the Secretary of Transportation as do normal DOT agencies. The OCST was originally constituted as a special office within the Office of the Secretary of Transportation as an interim measure under President Reagan’s executive order of 1983, codified by subsequent legislation in 1984. It was moved under the FAA early in the Clinton administration as a result of Vice President Gore’s “streamlining government” initiative. Giving it independent status would both elevate the national importance of space transportation, and remove it from the routine-transportation, common-carrier-oriented safety environment of the FAA, which (as previously mentioned) lost its role in the promotion of the aviation industry in the wake of the ValuJet crash in the late nineties. Additionally, consideration should be given to relocating to such an agency various routine space-transportation-related infrastructure and operational responsibilities located in other agencies where they are peripheral to those agencies’ main purpose and function and often suffer from inattention and low priorities.”

    Sorry, but still not convinced. So far as I can see, the FAA is doing a good job in handling it’s role and no arguments have been presented using any ‘facts’ as such, only opinion. I respect those however if it’s only opinion, then for me, that’s insufficient.
    JM2CW.

    PS Jeff. Many thanks for the opportunity to be exposed to these particular aspects of space.

  • JimNobles

    Okay, not trying to take sides here, just trying to understand. About FAA-AST (The Office of Commercial Space Transportation under the FAA) Wikipedia says:

    (1) regulate the commercial space transportation industry, only to the extent necessary to ensure compliance with international obligations of the United States and to protect the public health and safety, safety of property, and national security and foreign policy interest of the United States

    (2) encourage, facilitate, and promote commercial space launches by the private sector

    (3) recommend appropriate changes in Federal statutes, treaties, regulations, policies, plans, and procedures

    (4) facilitate the strengthening and expansion of the United States space transportation infrastructure

  • JimNobles

    (Sorry didn’t mean to orphan the partial post above.)

    So is the debate basically about item #2? Would the AST better be able to do the job under the FAA or as an office directly under DoT?

    And having read, here and other places, Rand’s remarks about an undue emphasis being put on safety in relation to other aspects of this new commercial paradigm, another question is about the AST not being able to promote commercial space adequately if it is under the FAA since the FAA has become a more safety-first agency rather than one promoting aerospace? Do I have this right? Are these the two main elements of the debate so far? Have I missed something?

    • Robert G. Oler

      Jim…it is that but more…Rand fundamentally misstates the nature of the FAA the FAA has not repeat NOT become a more “safety first” agency rather than one promoting aerospace…Simberg simply does not understand the issues surrounding the Valujet crash and that “dichotomy” RGO

    • NeilShipley

      Not really but I’ll take it up. If you consider that point 2 can be facilitated through the proper application of the other 3 points then the appropriate place is with the FAA.

      • NeilShipley

        Further to that then is that you shouldn’t simply take one section and read it in isolation. In order to understand the full scope you need to read them as a whole which is the sum of the parts.
        Cheers

  • And having read, here and other places, Rand’s remarks about an undue emphasis being put on safety in relation to other aspects of this new commercial paradigm, another question is about the AST not being able to promote commercial space adequately if it is under the FAA since the FAA has become a more safety-first agency rather than one promoting aerospace? Do I have this right? Are these the two main elements of the debate so far? Have I missed something?

    You have it mostly right. The other issue is that the office would have more clout, in terms of authority and budget, reporting directly to the SecDOT, rather than to the FAA head. So consider yourself smarter than Oler or DCSCA (though sadly, that’s a low bar).

    • DCSCA

      You’re not fooling anyone, Rand. A visit to your own website reveals youe agenda snd motives. You’ll never persuade anyone by misleading readers.

  • Gregori

    Promote space, how exactly?

  • Gregori

    That’s what I meant. How can such an authority promote commercial space industry?

    • By not overregulating to the point that the services become unaffordable…

      • Gregori

        Oh so you just want no regulations or safety standards! That’s not really promoting anything. There is a Commercial Spaceflight Federation, they are the most appropriate entity to “promote” commercial spaceflight

        • JimNobles

          I believe he said, …not overregulating… which I basically agree with. It also seems to be a concern of many other commercial space supporters, based on what I’ve seen on other forums and blogs.

        • Oh so you just want no regulations or safety standards!

          No.

          • JimNobles

            If commercial wanted to fly- really fly people– they’d do it. But they won’t -because the risk of failure outweighs the value of success- still.

            How do you figure that? Blue Origin, SpaceX, Sierra Nevada, and Boeing are all working on flying people. Do you think they are all involved in some sort of a scam?

      • DCSCA

        “By not overregulating to the point that the services become unaffordable…”

        So it’s anti- regulation. The core of hard-right poltics. You can always set up launch services some place else w/less regulation. Why do you think tankers nd rigs are registered in other nations like Liberia– but then w/less regs you run the risk of a catastrophe- like BP experienced. If commercial wanted to fly- really fly people– they’d do it. But they won’t -because the risk of failure outweighs the value of success- still.

        • Coastal Ron

          DCSCA opined:

          Why do you think tankers nd rigs are registered in other nations like Liberia

          It would help if you understood global commerce, because you are making the wrong conclusions.

          If commercial wanted to fly- really fly people– they’d do it. But they won’t -because the risk of failure outweighs the value of success- still.

          You can claim anything you want, but the facts belie your claims. Not only are three companies risking their own money in pursuit of being a crew transportation provider to LEO, but:

          1. NASA is already planning to increase the ISS staffing from six to seven in late 2016 in anticipation of Commercial Crew being available.

          2. Bigelow Aerospace is already quoting prices for rides to it’s Alpha Station aboard SpaceX and Boeing spacecraft.

          So between the Commercial Crew participants risking their own money, and their potential customers already making advanced plans to use Commercial Crew transportation services, that destroys your so-called “theory”.

  • JimNobles

    I was just reading Rep. Rohrabacher’s remarks. He said:

    As we look to the coming year, I see Congress considering, and enacting, something that is long overdue – an authorization for the Office of Commercial Space Transportation. The commercial space transportation industry is critical to America, and we must make that clear.

    I don’t know if he means authorizing AST to be moved directly under DOT or if he is simply talking about reauthorizing AST under the FAA as it already exists.

    He also said:

    It’s also important to note that Congress did not put this function within the FAA, but vested the Secretary of Transportation with this authority. The leadership of DOT and the FAA must keep this in mind, because the culture at FAA is based upon their mandate for passenger safety, which is different than the mandate for commercial space transportation.

    It sounds like Rand is not the only one who thinks the FAA’s mandates regarding safety may not be the right focus for AST.

    The Congressman goes on:

    Aviation is not spaceflight and spaceflight is not aviation. Congress and the people we represent expect a high level of safety regulations for passenger aviation. The FAA, which regulates but does not promote aviation, must have a different mindset than the FAA, which regulates and promotes spaceflight. Ultimately, if that proves too difficult for the FAA to reconcile, then we may need to consider moving this activity out of the FAA and back to the office of the Transportation Secretary.

    The above is basically Rand Simberg’s position. Except for the added perspective, “…that the office would have more clout, in terms of authority and budget, reporting directly to the SecDOT, rather than to the FAA head.”

    So now I’m wondering what would be downside of having AST directly under DOT instead of directly under the FAA? There must be a downside or the remarks against the idea wouldn’t have been so strong.

    Even if the “safety-first” label applied to the FAA has no merit, what would be the downside of having the Office of Commercial Space Transportation be its own entity under DOT? Again, there must be some downside or the debate wouldn’t have gotten so intense so quickly.

    Also, even though I only quoted some of the Congressman’s remarks I did read everything he had to say and took them as a whole. I only quoted these sections to help set up my question.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Even if the “safety-first” label applied to the FAA has no merit, what would be the downside of having the Office of Commercial Space Transportation be its own entity under DOT? Again, there must be some downside or the debate wouldn’t have gotten so intense so quickly.>>

    the downside is that the agency outside the FAA would be easy prey for the folks who want to stop all regulation and a dumping ground for political hacks. As it stands now the FAA has a wide and deep “bench” to deal with safety issues internally and that bench is growing. Plus an agency outside of the FAA would not have the FAA’s gravitas

    It is a solution looking for a problem RGO

    • the downside is that the agency outside the FAA would be easy prey for the folks who want to stop all regulation and a dumping ground for political hacks.

      No matter how many times you repeat this baseless statement, it remains stupid.

    • JimNobles

      .
      I’m sorry,upon reviewing this thread I realized I had missed this:

      “the downside is that the agency outside the FAA would be easy prey for the folks who want to stop all regulation and a dumping ground for political hacks.

      Would that be so if the Office was moved in whole part without any real internal re-organization or re-writing of its mandate? How often would the danger come up, yearly or whenever someone would want to try and add or amend legislation? I can see the political dangers to an agency which has few Patrons or protectors and thus may be more open to mischief from parties not really interested in the well-being of commercial space. So this may be a real danger?

      As it stands now the FAA has a wide and deep “bench” to deal with safety issues internally and that bench is growing. Plus an agency outside of the FAA would not have the FAA’s gravitas.”

      Okay, but if all things were equal (which they are not) would commercial space benefit more from a dedicated agency rather than from a larger agency where commercial space is only part of their responsibility? If a way can be found to make it happen without bad stuff happening?

      After learning what little I have learned my inclination is to believe that commercial space would benefit more from having its own dedicated Office under DOT. But if that is going to introduce a lot of potential problems then perhaps it’s not the best way to go.

      .

  • So now I’m wondering what would be downside of having AST directly under DOT instead of directly under the FAA? There must be a downside or the remarks against the idea wouldn’t have been so strong.

    The downside is that the FAA administrator would have less authority, so the FAA bureaucracy will push back, because no bureaucracy likes to have its reach reduced.

    • JimNobles

      What other downside might exist? Would there be problems in setting up the new entity, such as maybe opportunities for anti-commercial players to have a role in deciding what goes into the mandate? Who would most likely write the mandate? This same committee? Who will decide how the new office is organized and manned? Who decides who the Boss will be? What are the dangers inherit to the process? What could go wrong?

      I hope you guys don’t mind the questions. You got me interested in this, otherwise I would have probably regarded it as just another boring political thing that probably doesn’t really matter.

      Also, why was Sarah Palin brought into this? Has she realized she can see space from her house?

      That’s a joke.

      • Sarah Palin was brought into this because Oler has Palin-derangement (as well as “right wing” derangement and “Fox News” derangement) syndrome.

      • Robert G. Oler

        Jim.

        Sorry for the late reply, I have been working on an SMS (safety management system for a customer, in this case a nuclear power plant) as a note it is the first one that I have done where the people (the customer, me, the regulatory approval person) meet completely electronically for the approval. Nice

        There are four reasons that this does not make sense.

        The first is that Rand nor anyone else has demonstrated a reason to do so OTHER then the canard of “not promoting” commercials space. This is really code word for “we dont want regulations”…and to do that they need the agency outside of the FAA which is lobbying exactly in the opposite direction BECAUSE it knows that there is a plus side to regulation…appropriate regulation which the FAA is deft at.

        Second is that without regulation and or appropriate liability the commercial launch industry for people will not survive long. There are many reasons for this; not the least of which is that the people who are going to buy rides (or ride) have their own insurance policies which require some measure of safety for these people to perform such task, or require the ability for liability recovery if these people “lose value”.

        What the people like Simberg want is “informed consent” to be the standard of liability and regulation. Thats nonsense. Basically how it is used informed consent means “you know its dangerous” and hence if anything happens “you knew it was dangerous”. In the ValueJet case 592 Sabre Tech tried to argue that the standard of liability was “informed consent” and as the lawsuits begin to pile up in the Challenger incident (from the heirs of the CM in particular but Ron Jarvis and a few other folks were headed for the Court House)…what the notion piled down to was “the shuttle passengers were told it was dangerous” and then seeing that hole would collapse the US government settled very nicely with all the heirs.

        Right now all the commercial launch providers will be pretty careful, but eventually there will come a time when they get sloppy and cutting corners or run out of money (the BP exceuse) and then the accidents will start from either bad planning or neglect…what regulations stop is that…and with the liability shield that most of the people want, they will be needed.

        Third outside of the FAA an agency will not have the FAA’s legacy and demands of “safety”. Safety is not about technical knowledge; you buy technical knowledge (I dont know much more then what I learned in the Navy about reactors but to write the safety program I bought an expert!)…what makes on safe is management legacy and the FAA has it and enforces it on all its sub organization. Outside the FAA the agency will be prey for people like BP who routinely stack their regulatory agencies with “friends”…and you will see htat quickly. The FAA has hard and fast rules about who can be involved with what both on the inside and outside…and changing that is a goal of the no regulation people.

        finally (at least for this missive)..there is no evidence that the FAA has stifled anything (I know this sounds like 1 but its different just the reverse)..the history of regulatory agencies (or control agencies) outside the FAA is not good…if Rand or anyone else could site a single example of how things have changed because of the FAA then they would have a case…

        they dont

        what they are trying to do is to stop any future regulation and impose a liability shield…that will kill commercial space.

        RGO

  • Would there be problems in setting up the new entity, such as maybe opportunities for anti-commercial players to have a role in deciding what goes into the mandate?

    It would not be a “new entity.” It would still be the Office of Commercial Space Transportation, as it has been for almost thirty years, with the same personnel. It would simply report directly to the Secretary, instead of to the FAA Administrator, as it did from 1984 to 1993.

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