Experimental Permits Available For Spacecraft

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Commercial spacecraft developers will get the same sort of opportunity to build and fly experimental versions of their vehicles as aircraft manufacturers do under a new set of guidelines issued by the FAA. The agency recently unveiled, for public comment, a special "experimental class" permit for those tinkering with suborbital spacecraft. The new permit promises to clear away much of the red tape on the way to 100,000 meters. "We're hoping that this allows the reusable launch vehicle developers to build their vehicles and start flying without too much regulatory burden," FAA spokesman Randy Repcheck told Space.com. "We're protecting public health and safety, but we're trying to do so in a reduced manner so that reusable launch vehicle developers can go out and fly." There are, of course, conditions. The permits are only good for research, developmental or training flights and the FAA has to be sure the permit applicant has demonstrated the ability to pull off the test flights safely. The permit is good for a year but during its term the holder can launch vehicles of the specific design it covers an unlimited number of times. Repcheck said the idea is to give the permit holders as much leeway as possible to work the bugs out of their spacecraft before they start taking paying customers for a ride to the black sky. The permits are available until final regulations are adopted next June. "It seems to be a moment in history," Repcheck said. "We certainly hope it is. That's what we're all hoping for here."