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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. These launch and reentry operations were conducted 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 with respect 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 new deployment date in the Command Center is still targeting January 2021. The next FAA test activity will be Operational Test and Evaluation (OT&E), anticipated to begin early November. 

Tiger Team 

Mission Support-Strategy (AJV-S) director Rebecca Guy has assembled a “Tiger Team” of directors, managers, and stakeholders to revisit shortfalls and validate needs of the SDI “phase 2” investment, which was recently handed off from The Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) to AJV-S. This team will review existing documentation including but not limited to the draft SDI Phase 2 shortfalls and the Commercial Space CONOPS. A meeting cadence has yet to be determined but will likely be either bi-weekly or monthly. NATCA has been invited to participate in the Tiger Team as a key-stakeholder. 

NAS Space Integration Capabilities (NSIC) conducted a 2-day Operational Evaluation in late September with NATCA and AJR representatives to discuss the architecture of future enhancements which will eventually take automated hazard areas to the scopes. The point of this exercise was to capture operational feedback in response to several scenarios including nominal and off-nominal situations to prioritize elements of the investment. An out-brief is being scheduled for early November. 

Acceptable Level of Risk (ALR) 

The ALR contingency subgroup made substantial progress this month towards language to be included in a Document Change Proposal (DCP) to incorporate procedures into the 7110.65 for how controllers will respond to and off-nominal launch event. Reentries were scoped out from this effort due to their blackout periods.  These blackout periods often overlap with the time periods for response areas making them impractical. The team discussed the use of the word “assist” instead of “clear” and agreed that “assist” is preferable so as not to create a phraseology requirement for controllers. Since a launch mishap will be defined an emergency and each situation will be unique, plain language will be permitted. The team discussed and agreed to the requirement to have response areas drawn and available on affected radar scopes.  The team made edits to the language to clarify that this must be done before an operation begins. AJV-P will draft the DCP and present it for review and comment at an upcoming meeting. 

SpaceX Crew 1 Mission 

Following the United States’ successful return to manned spaceflight this summer aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule, the first NASA contracted crewed mission to the International Space Station is scheduled for early-mid November. I have been participating in weekly telcons with NASA, DoD, and SpaceX to discuss logistical and security concerns associated with this launch. The launch is tentatively scheduled for November 11th but may slide based on a myriad of factors. 

Management of Upper Class E airspace 

Historically upper-class E airspace (above FL600) has been managed by the Central Altitude Reservations Function (CARF) based at the Command Center. This is primarily accomplished utilizing a system of preassigned segregated ALTRV’s based on a given users request. With and increasing demand of users looking to operate in Upper-E airspace including military, UAS, balloons, and commercial space tourism, the AJR Space Operations team is preparing to enter into official discussions to realign the CARF unit under the Space Operations group. A series of meetings has been scheduled to engage with various ARTCC’s to discuss each facility’s internal processes and methods for managing the Upper-E under their control. 

Letter of Agreement talks are ongoing with respect to several operators. The LOA for Sierra Nevada’s Dream-Chaser vehicle reentry to Cape Canaveral is ongoing however we are waiting on several Acceptable Level of Risk (ALR) policy issues to be determined with respect to using THA’s for reentries. Virgin Galactic will hold a stakeholder engagement meeting prior to entering talks surrounding their operations in New Mexico and talks with SpaceX will be initiated to discuss guidelines for the Dragon Capsule splashdown site selections in the Atlantic Ocean. 

The Colorado Air and Space Port (CASP), also known as Front Range, is an FAA licensed spaceport in close proximity to Denver International Airport. Two operators are seeking to establish operations at CASP, New Frontier Aerospace and PD Aerospace. This is causing concern from several NAS stakeholder groups and resulted in these groups authoring a Letter to the Administrator voicing safety concerns. On Friday October 9th, CASP hosted an informational session to discuss the proposed operations at CASP. 

New Frontier Aerospace seeks to develop and test components of small hypersonic powered aircraft with the goal of providing ultra-high speed and long-range delivery of high value critical items, such as human organs for transplant. Their proposed operations at CASP involve small-scale development and testing of propulsion systems which may eventually be incorporated into their proprietary aircraft. Successful ground tests may culminate with tethered airborne rocket motor testing up to a maximum altitude of 1,000 feet. The rocket motor would be approximately 3 feet tall and have a maximum propellant load of up to 8 pounds. 

PD Aerospace is a Japanese company which seeks to develop a reusable suborbital spaceplane for microgravity testing, space tourism, and eventually point-to-point transportation. Plans for PD Aerospace to develop and test equipment at CASP is notional at this point.          

Upcoming and recurring meetings: 

·       Weekly Mission Support Strategy (AJV-S) meetings 

·       Weekly meetings with AJR, AJV, and PMO counterparts 

·       Weekly MITRE meetings 

·       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 

·       Bi-weekly NAS Space Integration Capabilities (NSIC) 

·       Monthly Space Data Integrator (SDI) meetings 

·       Quarterly Technical Interchange Meetings (TIM’s) 

·       LOA development meetings – ongoing 

·       Training development – ongoing 

·       Facility/site visits – as needed