FAA Says 2020 A Record Year for Space Launches

One launch was the first crewed spaceflight from the US in a decade.

The FAA licensed 41 space launches last year.NASA/Joel Kowsky

Most US pilots probably don’t know that an FAA license is required to conduct any kind of commercial space launch or reentry within the United States. Last year, the agency office that issues these permits said it was busier than ever, with 41 commercial space operations launches and reentries. One launch in May, a SpaceX Falcon 9, carried two US astronauts from the Kennedy Space Center to the International Space Station. The flight was the first US launch of a crewed vehicle in a decade.

Contributing to 2020′s accomplishments was a recent reorganization of the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation that increased the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of the office. The FAA said in a news release, “The organizational changes will help the FAA implement a new rule that modernizes how the agency regulates and licenses commercial space launch and reentry operations. The rule creates a single licensing regime for all types of launch and reentry operations, replaces prescriptive requirements with performance-based criteria, and allows the aerospace industry to continue to innovate and grow.”

During 2021, the agency says it will “continue to test new technologies to further enable the safe and efficient integration of space-vehicle operations with other types of air traffic in the National Airspace System. Additionally, the FAA will establish an interagency working group to develop a recommended National Spaceport Strategy to advance a robust, innovative national system of spaceports to support the directives and other tasks of America’s National Space Policy.”