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Federal Civilian

FAA: Vehicle Reentry Authorization Needed at Spacecraft Pre-Launch

Policy revision

FAA: Vehicle Reentry Authorization Needed at Spacecraft Pre-Launch

A Federal Aviation Administration notice posted in the Federal Register on Wednesday advised that the agency will no longer authorize the launch of a spacecraft with a reentry vehicle payload unless its return to Earth has been licensed.

Henceforth, the FAA will check for a reentry permit under its standard payload review of a spacecraft applying for a launch license. Safety concerns were cited in the policy revision notice, which followed Varda Space Industries’ first spacecraft launch in June 2023. The spacecraft returned to Earth only a week after getting the reentry license in February, SpaceNews reported Thursday.

Kelvin Coleman, FAA associate administrator for commercial space transportation, said in a briefing at the 39th Space Symposium on April 10 that some lessons were learned after the agency allowed Varda’s launch without a reentry license aboard a SpaceX Falcon rocket. Coleman noted that the 2023 Varda mission was on a tight launch schedule, prompting the FAA to allow its flight even with an unlicensed reentry.

In an earlier speech at the FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference in February, Coleman disclosed that the agency will create a committee to gather industry input to improve spaceflight licensing.

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Category: Federal Civilian

Tags: authorization Earth reentry vehicle Federal Aviation Administration federal civilian Kelvin Coleman launch license spacecraft payload SpaceNews