Report recommends Congress allow full regulation of commercial human spaceflight

The modern instruction manual for America
The modern instruction manual for America

A new report by the RAND corporation has recommended that Congress allow the moratorium on full regulation of commercial human spaceflight, established by the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 and extended several times, to expire on October 1, 2023.

That recommendation came despite a lack of progress on voluntary standards and key industry metrics. While standards development organizations like ASTM International and ISO have published 20 standards related to commercial spaceflight, the RAND report noted that “companies have yet to clearly or consistently adopt them in a manner that can be confirmed or verified publicly.” A diversity of technical approaches also hinders the development and implementation of standards.

The report also found that while the FAA had developed key industry indicators to assess readiness for adopting safety regulations, there were no goals for those indicators to determine when it was time to implement regulations. “It is, therefore, difficult to assess whether there has been progress toward meeting key industry metrics when there are not clear targets that could be met,” the report concluded.

Despite that lack of progress on standards or metrics, the RAND report nonetheless concluded that allowing the learning period to expire this year was the best approach. Doing so, it argued, would allow FAA and industry to start the process of developing safety regulations in a gradual manner and avoid a rush to regulate imposed by Congress should a high-profile accident take place while the learning period is still in effect.

It also recommended additional resources for the FAA to support that regulatory process, but did not quantify an increase in the budget for or personnel assigned to its Office of Commercial Space Transportation, or AST. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted words illustrate the crushing fundamentals of all government regulation. » Read more