FAA Releases Updated Space Tourist Safety Recommendations

The recommendations are the first update from the agency since 2014 and cover design, manufacturing, and operations.

Blue Origin’s orbital road to space at Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Credit: Blue Origin

The FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) announced it has updated a list of recommendations aimed at limiting hazards that commercial space vehicle occupants could encounter, from preflight to landing. 

The recommendations, which are the first since 2014, cover the gamut across design, manufacturing, and operations, and are based on lessons learned during the NASA Commercial Crew program, as well as recent commercial space fights, the FAA said Friday.

"AST is issuing Version 2 of this document because significant progress has been made in the commercial human space flight industry since 2014, the year Version 1 was issued," the FAA said in recommendations Friday. "SpaceX, via its Dragon capsule, is regularly conducting orbital flights to the International Space Station under contract with…(NASA’s) Commercial Crew program, as well as private orbital flights. Virgin Galactic has successfully taken people on a suborbital flight from Spaceport America [in New Mexico]. And Blue Origin is regularly launching passengers on suborbital flights from its site in West Texas."

Among the recommendations included in the 102-page document is a call for system operators to enhance cybersecurity measures in order to prevent hacking of critical vehicle functions. Operators should  also develop and use voluntary consensus standards in support of human space flight occupant safety, the agency said.

"The use of consensus standards which have been developed and are found to conform to best practices can recognize time and financial savings," the FAA noted.

The recommendations are the latest from the safety agency, which last week proposed a rule aiming to limit new orbital debris during commercial space operations, aligning with those accepted by the U.S. government for its space missions. 

Earlier this summer, the FAA launched a rulemaking committee to examine the cost and development of possible future regulations related to occupant safety during commercial space flights. The 25-member committee includes representatives from the FAA and space industry, including Virgin Galactic, Boeing, SpaceX, and Blue Origin.

Kimberly is managing editor of FLYING Digital.

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