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 to 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 an increasing number of government and commercial missions into space, often from new places. New launch sites are being developed at inland sites, including dual-use facilities that host both space and traditional aviation operations. 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 in order to fully integrate commercial space operations rather than segregate.
The Space Data Integrator (SDI): Development of the SDI ‘minimum viable product” (MVP) has been completed. The SDI Program Management Office (PMO) team will be conducting security testing with the vendor in October. The new deployment date will be January 2021. NAS Space Integration Capabilities (NSIC) will be conducting an Operational Evaluation the week of September 21st with NATCA and AJR representatives to discuss the architecture of future enhancements which will eventually take automated hazard areas to the scopes.
Acceptable Level of Risk (ALR): The ALR contingency subgroup is discussing draft procedures and is seeking guidance on if pilot concurrence should be included in the procedure.
The ALR Oceanic subgroup is still exploring the variance part of the calculation. Variance is the uncertainty of aircraft positions in the ATOP environment. After some discussion, it was mentioned by AJI that this variance may also be present in the radar environment and should be revisited. This is concerning because this may require reconfiguring the Range/Risk Analysis Tool (RRAT) which calculates the hazard volumes. Weather deviations and Dynamic Routes in ATOP are still being explored.
The Joint Space Operations Group (JSpOG) is a collaboration of System Operations (AJR) and The Office of Commercial Space (AST) and meets biweekly. Astra, the launch operator based at Pacific Spaceport in Kodiak Alaska, suffered another failure this week. The vehicle’s first stage engine malfunctioned and the rocket fell to earth completely intact, exploding on impact just a few miles from the launch site. The failure was wholly contained in the AHA. Astra’s ongoing
struggle to successfully reach orbit continues to be an issue for Pacific launches as the unreliability of the vehicle requires hazard areas over 1,000 NM long, causing a significant impact on transpacific air traffic efficiency.
The Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) meets virtually on September 14th. Major General DeAnna Burt, the Unites States Space Force Director of Operations & Communications, briefed on the use of military ranges and the need to fund infrastructure. Plans are to develop a “Range of the Future” for the eastern and western ranges, and they are looking at what they can do to get to a more airport-like joint use with their spaceports. There will be a USSF Spring Launch Summit (date TBD) where they will unveil a Vision Statement on the Range of the Future. There was a briefing on the “orbital debris rule” where the FAA has the responsibility to manage the rocket bodies after launch. Most of the top 50 tracked debris items are rocket bodies, but many are foreign rockets, not U.S. rockets. Rulemaking and FAR Part 450 was discussed. The one takeaway was the concept of a “Space-Park” status, which would be for a site that wants an FAA Spaceport License but has yet to identify an operator/vehicle. This type of designation would allow them to build a location into a licensed spaceport only after the site operator attracts a licensed launch operator. If this rule had been in place, the Colorado Spaceport and Midland TX spaceport (which were heavily opposed) would not have been licensed.
Upcoming and recurring meetings:
· Weekly Mission Support Strategy (AJV-S) meetings
· Weekly meeting with AJR, AJV, and PMO counterparts
· Bi-weekly Acceptable Level of Risk (ALR) meetings
· Bi-weekly Acceptable Level of Risk (ALR) subgroup meetings
· Bi-weekly Joint Space Operations Group (JSpOG) meetings
· Monthly Space Data Integrator meetings
· Quarterly Technical Interchange Meetings (TIM’s)
· LOA development meetings – ongoing
· Training development – ongoing
· Facility/site visits – as needed