At a hearing in the Senate yesterday officials from SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic all expressed strong concerns about how the regulatory bottleneck at the FAA is damaging the entire launch business.
Gerstenmaier emphasized that the FAA’s commercial space office “needs at least twice the resources that they have today” for licensing rocket launches. While he acknowledged the FAA is “critical to enabling safe space transportation,” Gerstenmaier added that the industry is “at a breaking point.”
“The FAA has neither the resources nor the flexibility to implement its regulatory obligations,” Gerstenmaier said.
…The other four panelists’ testimonies largely echoed SpaceX’s viewpoint on the need to bolster the FAA’s ranks and speed up the process of approving rocket launches. Phil Joyce, Blue Origin senior vice president of New Shepard, said the FAA “is struggling to keep pace” with the industry “and needs more funding to deal with the increase in launches.”
Likewise, industry expert Caryn Schenewerk, a former leader at SpaceX and Relativity Space, said that the FAA’s recent changes have yet to “streamline licensing reviews” and instead have “proven more cumbersome and costly.”
Wayne Monteith — a retired Air Force brigadier general who also led the FAA’s space office — said that Congress should consider consolidating space regulations. “I believe a more efficient one stop shop approach to authorizing and licensing space activities is necessary,” Monteith said.
As always, the focus is on giving the government agency “more resources”. No one ever suggests that maybe its inability to meet the demand is because of mission creep, in which the government continually grabs more regulatory power than it is supposed to have, which then requires it to have additional resources, which then allows it to grab even more power, which then requires more resources, and on and on the merry-go-round goes.
To really solve this problem we need to trim the regulatory framework. The FAA’s responsibilities must be cut, not enhanced. It must be told it “will issue” launch licenses, rather than take the position it “might issue” them. It also must be told to cut back on the checklists it is demanding from companies. All that should concern it is scheduling and arranging air traffic and the launch range to prevent conflicts. Beyond that any regulation is simply overreach, and is something that was never under its control in the past.
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