FAA Weighs Aircraft Versus Spacecraft Airspace Needs

 - April 25, 2023, 10:51 AM
With launch sites and spacecraft activity increasing in the U.S., the FAA is seeking to better balance aircraft versus spacecraft airspace needs. (Photo: SpaceX)

Due to increasing spacecraft activity and a growing number of launch sites in the U.S., the FAA is taking additional steps to “optimize and equitably manage” the airspace in the vicinity of launch sites. To minimize disruptions, the agency has developed a set of objective factors to better balance the needs of commercial launch licensees, airlines, general aviation, and the military.

This work is in addition to the use of current tools and procedures that the agency claims have cut “airspace closures to an average of two hours instead of four hours per launch.”

The FAA will consider the following factors in determining whether a space operation may proceed as requested or whether an alternative time is necessary: location and timing of the proposed launch; the number of flights and/or passengers that will be affected by the operation; holidays or events that result in more than usual airspace congestion; launch window duration; and nighttime versus daytime launches (the FAA prefers space operations at night).

In addition, the agency will prioritize commercial space operations that have a national security purpose, are in the national interest, and/or carry payloads. At the end of June, the agency plans to meet with aviation and space industries’ representatives to continue collaborating and then later establish an airspace access priorities aviation rulemaking committee.