The stopgap 45-day continuing resolution passed by Congress on September 30, 2023 also included a three-month extension of regulatory “learning-period” first established in 2004 and extended several times since then.
Among the provisions in that FAA reauthorization was a three-month extension of the existing restrictions on the FAA’s ability to regulate safety for commercial spaceflight participants. That restriction, often called a “learning period” by the industry, was set to expire Oct. 1 but now runs until Jan. 1.
It must be noted that this so-called limitation on FAA regulation of commercial spaceflight really does not exist any longer, no matter what law Congress passes. The administrative state really runs the show now, and both the FAA and Fish & Wildlife have decided heavy regulations are required, and are imposing such controls over SpaceX’s Superheavy/Starshp test program, while the FAA by itself is imposing strict regulation on Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital spacecraft. The result is a slowdown in launches for both, extending months to a year.
It also appears that this heavy regulation is squelching launches of new rockets. Last year four new rocket startups attempted new launches (Astra, ABL, Firefly, Relativity), some making multiple attempts. This year, such test flights have essentially ceased, with only Firefly completing one launch for the military. Worse, two of those companies (Astra and Relativity) have abandoned their rockets entirely, claiming they are building new bigger versions, but one must now wonder.
The long term historical significance of these facts extends far beyond the space industry. Increasingly the unelected bureaucracy in Washington is taking on powers it is not supposed to have, while Congress (which is delegated those powers) increasingly is irrelevant. The shift in power signals a major reshaping of American governance, in a direction that is not good for freedom or the fundamental concepts that established the country and made it a success.
On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.
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"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News