Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta told a group of space-travel enthusiasts last month that the DOT/ FAA will be ready to issue permits for commercial space travel next year, and trips paid for by passengers could begin in 2008.
During his keynote speech at the ninth annual Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington, the DOT Secretary revealed that his department, which is responsible for authorizing commercial space travel, would be ready to approve the passenger flights once tests of craft designed to take passengers into space were completed. He said he expects to issue permits next year to allow the test flights, and if these flights are successful, the department would then issue a license for passenger space flight.
“This timeline isn’t based on science fiction,” said Mineta. “It is a timeline based on the reality of where commercial space [flight] is today and where we expect the state of commercial space [flight] to be within two short years.”
He made it clear that the DOT would take steps to ensure the safety of these commercial passenger space flights. But he added that the agency would make sure these checks did not delay the launch
of passenger space travel.
“We will move quickly to greenlight flights that we know are safe,” Mineta said, and if companies are able to complete testing sooner, the DOT will be ready. “When the industry is set for liftoff, we will be ready to launch,” he added.
“We have an important role to play in ensuring the safety of commercial space flights, especially for passengers,” Mineta said. “But we also have an obligation to encourage innovation and support new developments.”