Exclusive: ‘Act now’ to keep US competitive in space race, senators say

The SpaceX Super Heavy booster ignites launching Starship on its second test flight Saturday from Orbital Launch Pad 1 at the company’s Starbase Facility in Boca Chica, Texas. Regulators gave SpaceX the green light to proceed last week after a lengthy environmental review. CNN —

The top two lawmakers on the US Senate’s space and science subcommittee are pushing federal regulators to accelerate the approval of commercial space launches, arguing that the current pace could cost the United States its edge in the new space race.

In a letter sent last week to the head of the Federal Aviation Administration’s commercial spaceflight office, Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Eric Schmitt implored FAA associate administrator Kelvin Coleman to “act now” to eliminate red tape and reduce delays in processing launch and return to Earth — or reentry — licenses.

“As the pace of launches from U.S. commercial spaceflight companies increases and China’s state-backed space industry continues to grow, it is imperative that the processes at the FAA and other federal agencies adapt to keep pace with American innovation as well as adversarial threats in space,” the senators wrote in a letter dated November 14. ‘Keeping pace with industry demand’

The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation is responsible for protecting public safety while simultaneously greenlighting a growing number of commercial space launches, which have quadrupled in just four years. The FAA has already licensed 104 launches this year, compared to 26 launches in 2019.

“Keeping pace with industry demand is a priority and is important for several reasons, including meeting our national security and civil exploration needs,” an FAA spokesperson told CNN in a statement on Tuesday. “We’re working diligently to attract, hire and retain additional staff.”

In their letter, the senators named NASA’s commercial partners involved in the agency’s flagship human spaceflight program and […]

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By Donato