We Guide You Home

Commercial Space

Paul Behan is the Article 114 Rep for Commercial Space integration.  

Background:  Historically, space launch and reentry operations in the NAS occurred infrequently and were segregated from other operations by containing them within special activity airspace (SAA). These launch and reentry operations were conducted almost exclusively by federal agencies, originated from coastal sites, and air traffic was routed around the SAA to ensure public safety. Given their infrequency and high national priority there was little incentive to make these complex operations more efficient concerning their effects on NAS efficiency and capacity. NASA and the DoD are no longer the only participants in space launch and reentry operations, there are numerous private companies now launching government and commercial missions into space, and there are dozens of newly licensed inland launch sites. As the commercial space transportation industry evolves and becomes more prevalent in the NAS, the FAA must ensure regulatory compliance, create policies & procedures, and develop automation and decision support tools for ATC to fully integrate commercial space operations rather than segregate. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the cancellation of all travel not deemed mission-critical. As such all of my regularly scheduled meetings have been modified to occur via electronic means such as Skype, GoTo Meeting, Zoom, etc. Site meetings at spaceports/airports/facilities have all been postponed until the pandemic concludes.  

The Space Data Integrator (SDI) build 1 development is ongoing. A follow-on Safety-Risk Mitigation Panel convened on April 28, 20, & 30th. The panel did not identify any risks that would prevent moving forward with the deployment of SDI in August 2020. It is unclear if COVID-19 will delay the implementation. 

The Acceptable Level of Risk (ALR) implementation team meets every 2 weeks. ALR procedures development for non-radar airspace has resumed. FAA Mission Support – Procedures (AJV-P) authored a White Paper which outlines a plan for the creation of hazard volumes in ATOP and procedures for traversing those hazard volumes. In collaboration with JT Lenhart, NATCA’s National ATOP representative and representatives from the FAA’s ATOP workgroup, significant issues were identified. The ATOP team invited me to participate in a series of meetings in which we compiled comments to submit to AJV-P and the ALR implementation team which outline our concerns. It is expected that we will discuss these comments at the next regularly scheduled ALR implementation team meeting.  

The Commercial Space Leadership Team (CSLT) is a Director level workgroup chaired by Duane Freer (AJV-11). In their May meeting, they authorized the creation of an ALR review group, which will revisit assumptions used in the creation of ALR for domestic airspace. It is believed that many assumptions were significantly overinflated, and since we now possess data from numerous recent launches, ALR can be refined to reduce the size and impact of hazard areas and rework or eliminate several current methods contained in the procedure. I will be a participant in this workgroup on behalf of NATCA. 

The Dynamic Launch-Reentry Windows (DLRW) workgroup meets weekly. MITRE has been tasked by AJR with engaging launch and reentry operators in a series of telcons regarding their internal launch processes and procedures to ascertain common practices that may lead to more efficient “dynamic” use of launch window times and activation/release of associated airspace. This month we identified that any data collection for recent/upcoming launches will be unusable in calculating increase/decrease of NAS efficiency due to the sharp decline in NAS traffic during reduced flight schedules caused by COVID-19. The team will continue to meet and examine other facets not disrupted by the pandemic. 

The Joint Space Operations Group (JSpOG) is a collaboration of System Operations and AST and meets biweekly. Normal agenda items are SDI status updates, LOA status updates, past, and upcoming launch/reentry mission briefings. Next week, the SpaceX DM-2 mission is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. This launch will be high-profile as it will be the United States’ first attempt at sending humans into space from American soil since the retirement of the Space Shuttle program in 2011. The FAA’s Office of Communications (AOC) asked me and several of my Agency counterparts to participate in interviews discussing the work we do to support space launch and reentry mission in the NAS. It is expected they will use those videos for public relations and social media before the launch.  

Upcoming and recurring meetings: 

  • Weekly Mission Support Strategy (AJV-S) meetings 
  • Weekly TBLP/DLRW meetings 
  • Weekly A114 rep meetings 
  • Weekly Space Data Integrator (SDI) meetings 
  • Bi-weekly Acceptable Level of Risk (ALR) meetings 
  • Bi-weekly Joint Space Operations Group (JSpOG) meetings 
  • Bi-weekly Space Strategic Action Plan meetings 
  • Quarterly Technical Interchange Meetings (TIM’s) 
  • LOA development meetings – ongoing 
  • Training development – ongoing 
  • Facility/site visits – as needed 
Jump to top of page