Senate Leaders Press FAA To Speed Up Space Launch Approvals


Leaders of the Senate space and science subcommittee have sent a letter to the FAA urging it to further streamline commercial space launch and reentry approvals. Chair Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Arizona, and Ranking Member Eris Schmitt, R-Missouri, say red tape at the agency is threatening the country’s competitiveness and in getting high-profile missions like the Artemis moon landing program off the ground.

“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 letter said according to CNN.

The FAA told the network it understands the issues and it’s doing its best, noting that it has approved 104 launches this year so far compared to 26 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.”

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. Really? Do I hear an echo? The only way the Senators are going to get the FAA to speed things up is to take away any jurisdiction the FAA has over space flight. I’ve been saying this for years.

  2. “…it has approved 104 launches this year so far compared to 26 in 2019.”

    Sure, that’s one metric. a possibly more important one is HOW LONG did it take for each of these approvals to be issued once requested?

  3. I’m all for safety but I’ve always wondered just how much the FAA folks know about rocket or aircraft engineering. If they are capable, why are they not working for Boeing or Elon? Can you imagine the frustration of having to explain everything and kiss the rear ends of those bureaucrats?

    • Empirically, one would think the FAA would know more about “rocket science” than most any Congress-critter. Raising tons of money over divisive issues, OTOH…

    • Because space vehicles transition “our” airspace on their way up and down. Air travel is affected when airspace closures are put up for each launch and recovery.

      • Prompted by this AV web article I looked a little up about this issue
        Want to launch a commercial space vehicle and you have to deal with:

        EPA on the ground
        FAA in the atmosphere
        NOAA – Office of Space Commerce
        FCC – Allocated radio frequencies
        Maybe NASA but I am not sure about that
        and once you get up there
        The US Space Force

        Quite a number of bureaucratic organizations to deal with. Each having a different mission (agenda).

        Getting them all in line in a certain time frame should be streamlined.

        Very brief summary here

    • I understand all the airspace as I am a pilot…………my point was Space exploration and launches should have Nothing to do with the FAA………they cant even handle what’s happening in the sky as it is.

  4. Some copy editing may be in order. The article says, “Majority Leader Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, R-Arizona, and Ranking Member Eris Schmitt, D-Missouri, say…”. Sinema is “Chair”, not “Majority Leader”, and she is “I-Arizona”, not “R-Arizona”. Schmitt’s personal name is “Eric”, not “Eris”. Source: .

  5. This isn’t about the FAA, it’s about Elon Musk. He doesn’t think he should have to answer to anyone about anything. As he becomes more powerful he becomes more dangerous, just ask the Ukrainian military.

    • A quirky sort of fellow but all in all better with him than without. IMO.

      Sadly, an FAA (or similar authority) is needed to ride herd on the rouge’s out there amongst us.

    • This is a false statement. He is willing to abide by the process, as the TESTIMONY of his executives at the resent Congressional hearings. What he and other space executives emphasized to Congress was that the FAA, EPA, NOAA, and USF&WS needed were personnel to handle the flood of applications.

      They also related the need for consistent requirements: Case in point, SpaceX was required by the USF&WS to conduct sound impact studies on sea lions. No other agency, NASA, nor other space flight company has ever been required to carry out this type of testing. USF&WS “Bring Me A Rock” requirements attitude, and all other similar bureaucratic attitudes, need to be checked in this regard.