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Space Science

SpaceX Gets First Private FAA Space Reentry License 108

Posted by kdawson
from the interpanetary-driver's-license dept.
coondoggie sends in a Network World story that begins "Space Exploration Technologies (Space X) got the first-ever Federal Aviation Administration license allowing the reentry to Earth of a privately developed spacecraft. The license was needed because the Space X Dragon space capsule is scheduled to launch atop Space X's Falcon 9 rocket on Dec. 7 and return to earth. The Launch of the rocket had already been approved by the FAA. The FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation noted that it has licensed over 200 successful launches."
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SpaceX Gets First Private FAA Space Reentry License

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  • Re:What? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by khallow (566160) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @02:03PM (#34320446)
    Heh, it also turns out that the US is directly liable for anything put up there by US businesses. And SpaceX will have to pass through the lower atmosphere (which is why the FAA reentry license is required).
  • Re:A license? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @02:14PM (#34320646) Homepage Journal

    So if they didn't get this license, does that mean it would never return to Earth?

    No, it means it wouldn't leave the launch pad.

    It's hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that any governmental organization can tell us how and when we can visit the stars.

    Your government doesn't want to start an international incident when your flight plan knocks another government's communication satellite out of orbit.

  • It's needed. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Animats (122034) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @02:42PM (#34321076) Homepage

    Bear in mind that a spacecraft launch and an ICBM launch look very similar, and a re-entry looks like an incoming missile. It's best if everybody knows where and when to expect such events, so that various military forces don't overreact. Both the normal scenarios and the abort plans need to be reviewed.

  • by fantomas (94850) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @02:57PM (#34321306)

    Article summary states: "allowing the reentry to Earth of a privately developed spacecraft".

    Presumably the article summary should have read "allowing the reentry to the USA's airspace of a privately developed spacecraft"?

    I am guessing the FAA's [wikipedia.org] jurisdiction only extends over USA territories rather than making a claim for global control over who lands on Earth? I am assuming the Russians and Chinese don't have to notify the FAA whenever they wish to land a spacecraft, nor would they expect a private craft launched and landed in their airspace to ask the FAA for permission?

  • Re:What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by camperdave (969942) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @03:45PM (#34321938) Journal

    If it has the acceleration capacity required to achieve orbit and travel across the interstellar void it should have enough acceleration to outrun a SAM.

    Not even close. It's a case of marathon vs sprint. A rocket that can accelerate at 3 or 4G for 8 minutes can get into orbit. However, it cannot outrun a SAM that accelerates at 10-15G.

  • Re:licensing? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nyeerrmm (940927) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @04:22PM (#34322512)

    The biggest risk to a company like SpaceX or Sierra Nevada/SpaceDev is not having to get licenses, its being FUD'd to death by the likes of ATK, Marshall Spaceflight Center, and their personal attack senators, Hatch and Shelby.

    I wouldn't call SpaceX a 'big business,' at least not in their field. Their established competitor for manned re-entry vehicles is NASA. Having a set procedure to obtain clearance for re-entry makes it so that instead of fuzzy measures of 'experience' a new company can simply say "Here is our license." In this case, with something dangerous, difficult, and with potential military ramifications, having a defined procedure increases the ability of new companies to compete by decreasing their liability.

    And comparing the nascent commercial space industry with the nascent aviation industry is not the best analogy -- first and foremost, commercial aviation never had to step out of the shadows and defend itself from established government agencies and their large commercial supporters. It also didn't risk accidentally looking like a nuclear strike.

    Too much regulation can stifle an industry, this is certainly true, but that doesn't mean the correct answer is to have none instead.

  • by cdrguru (88047) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @04:53PM (#34322930) Homepage

    Yes, you probably would require several different licenses. For a sailing vessel you are going to need a master's license that allows you to operate the sailboat in coastal and international waters. This might not apply to a 10-foot sailboat, but I don't think you are going to sail one of those around South America.

    You may need several other licenses, including a license that covers the toilet on board because without that you would be polluting without a license. Polluting with a license is fine, but you gotta have that license.

    Got a radio? You will need a license for that.

    You can probably think of several more things that are going to need a license as well. Anyone that thinks there is an insufficent amount of regulation in the US is just plain nuts.

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