WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Transportation is having a record year with supporting 35 licensed commercial space launches thus far in 2020 with the potential for even more before the year ends. The prior record of 33 was established in 2018.
“The record number of launches demonstrates this administration’s commitment to support the innovation and growth of the U.S. commercial space transportation industry and lead the world in aerospace capabilities,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.
For 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is forecasting a continued growth in licensed commercial space launches that could possibly reach 50 or more.
The 2020 commercial space launches cover a diversity of missions including the first FAA licensed crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS), cargo-only resupply of the ISS, delivery of private enterprise satellites into orbit and the testing of space capsules and rocket systems. The launches occurred from seven locations both domestic and foreign: Alaska, California, Florida, New Mexico, Texas, Virginia and New Zealand.
The FAA recently streamlined and modernized the regulations governing commercial space launch and reentry licensing as directed in the President’s May 2018 Space Policy Directive -2. The new rule facilitates greater growth and innovation in the aerospace industry, maintains public safety, and helps the U.S strengthen its leading position in the world.
An FAA license is required to conduct any commercial launch or reentry, the operation of any launch or reentry site by U.S. citizens anywhere in the world, or by any individual or entity within the United States. Once the FAA issues a license or permit, the agency works with operators to make sure they are meeting the requirements to conduct launches and reentries. This includes having FAA safety inspectors monitor licensed activities.