The FAA opened a new field office in Houston, Texas, on Monday designed to expand its oversight of commercial space operations in Texas and New Mexico. According to the agency, the Space Safety field office will allow it to more efficiently monitor testing programs and commercial space tourism operations conducted by companies including SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic. In addition, the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation is increasing its safety inspection staff and establishing an Office of Spaceports.
“Keeping the public safe as the pace of commercial space operations increases requires the FAA to adapt, be agile, and remain vigilant,” said Wayne Monteith, FAA associate administrator of commercial space transportation. “The Houston field office will help us achieve these important goals.”
The field office is the latest in a series of actions taken by the FAA as it works to “keep pace with the increasing frequency of commercial space launch and reentry activities.” The agency also launched its Space Data Integrator spacecraft tracker tool last month, and a reworked version of the commercial space launch and reentry licensing regulations went into effect in March. A total of 41 commercial space launches and reentries were licensed by the FAA in 2020, with as many as 60 expected this year.