FAA And NASA Define Space Roles

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The FAA and NASA agreed this week to work together to create standards for commercial space travel to low Earth orbit and to the International Space Station. "This important agreement between the FAA and NASA will advance our shared goals in commercial space travel," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. By working together, the two agencies aim to avoid creating conflicting requirements and multiple sets of standards, and to advance safety for crews and the public. The FAA will provide a license to commercial providers to ensure public safety, and NASA will be responsible for crew safety and mission assurance.

"This agreement is the next step in bringing the business of launching Americans back to American soil," said Charles Bolden, NASA administrator. Currently, astronauts working in the ISS must hitch a ride from the Russians. "We are fostering private sector innovation while maintaining high standards of safety and reliability to re-establish U.S.-crewed access to low-Earth orbit," Bolden said. SpaceX recently launched the first private spacecraft to dock with the ISS. Virgin Galactic is testing its space vehicles based on Burt Rutan's designs, and recently opened offices in Las Cruces, N.M., where a spaceport is under construction to handle tourist flights into space.