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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 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 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) 

The SDI MVP team continues to work towards deployment and has had technical discussions with launch operators to coordinate future onboarding activities. The team recently completed TFM Data onboarding testing. The team also resolved all critical/high vulnerabilities identified during October’s IRAT security scan. Target deployment in the ATCSCC is March 2021. The vendor responsible for SDI development (AS&T) is conducting a series of familiarization sessions to train the Joint Space Operations Group (JSpOG) members who will operate the system. These sessions will suffice for training under the Test NCP, however formal training will need to be developed prior to SDI becoming a certified NAS system. Initial discussions with the NATCA A114 training rep have begun to develop training for when the system becomes operational at the conclusion of the test-NCP. 

NAS Space Integration Capabilities (NSIC) is a merger of Space Data Integrator Phase 1 (SDI P1) and Space Integration Capabilities (SIC). The ultimate goal is to implement NSIC into existing NAS systems (e.g., TFMS, ERAM, STARS) with the capability of displaying real-time activation/deactivation of launch & reentry hazard areas on the controller’s scope. The NSIC team held a “Scoping, History, and Current Strategy” briefing on January 26th. This event was to shape a common understanding of NSIC concepts between operational groups and the Program Office. The NSIC team is preparing for the March 17th JRC strategy decision and continues to work investment analysis activities in support of NSIC. 

NSIC Collaborative Workgroup 

The Program Office developing the NSIC investment (AJM-225) expressed a desire to form a collaborative workgroup (CWG) with NATCA consisting of CPCs from various disciplines to collaborate with their team and provide operational subject matter expertise. Once formed, the workgroup will work with the Program Office to provide operational inputs in order to refine and validate user requirements, attend safety panels, Human in the Loop scenarios and/or observational events, as well as participate in reviewing program operational documents and support the program in other investment related activities. In accordance with Article 114, I participated in several meetings with AJT and the PMO to develop the scope, requirements, and makeup of the workgroup. We tentatively agreed that the ideal CWG makeup will consist of 2 enroute CPC’s, 1 enroute TMC, 1 ATCSCC National Traffic Management Specialist (NTMS), and 1 TRACON CPC. An emphasis will be placed on soliciting SMEs from facilities which routinely conduct space launch & reentry operations. As the Article 114 representative for commercial space, I will serve as one of the CWG’s co-leads. AJM would like the CWG to be up & running by the end of April, however we are unsure how long the tech-labor, solicitation, and selection process will take. 

Acceptable Level of Risk (ALR) 

Several aspects of ALR are being revisited and modified to correct what are believed to be overly restrictive procedures based on inaccurate data/assumptions in the early stages of ALR creation. In January, the Agency took action to discontinue ALR for capsule returns, specifically the angular THA crossing restriction. A MITRE risk analysis study supports removing these restrictions when a THA is less than 5 NM in width, however a restriction of 2.7 degrees or greater from parallel of the reentry trajectory would be necessary to be in compliance with the Agency’s accepted level of risk. Further discussion this month supports replacing the 2.7-degree restriction with a time-based restriction. A time-based restriction could be more easily and uniformly implemented without the need for on-sector CPC angular calculations and would remove NAS equipment limitations as a factor. This month the Agency formally accepted MITRE’s report which analyzed collective risk associated with aircraft crossing a THA. This report limited a capsule return THA width to 5NM and all subsequent calculations were based on that assumption. In a February 16th ALR review team meeting it was stated that hazard area calculations for an upcoming capsule return will exceed 5NM. This negates the reduction of angular restrictions based on the MITRE study. A brief conversation ensued about increasing angle & time constraints commensurate with THA width. I opposed multiple standards based on variables and supported reverting to the existing published NAS ALR procedure, which is a minimum 30 degree crossing angle to the reentry trajectory. Discussions on this will continue. 

ALR Training: Due to the number and extent of the changes being proposed to ALR, the 2019 eLMS course will need to be modified to reflect the new procedures. Sincere there are several aspects which may change with varying timeframes, we have agreed to supplement the existing eLMS with a post-course “delta briefing” which will cover any changes to the material just covered. This briefing is meant to be a temporary fix until all ALR changes are complete and a new eLMS course can be developed. Work on this briefing is ongoing. 

In September 2019, AJI issued a tasking memo for the assignment of ALR eLMS training ahead of ALR becoming a NAS procedure in October 2019. This tasking memo did not require assignment of ALR training to all controllers, instead it was left to the discretion of individual facility training managers to decide if their facilities needed this training. Many facilities throughout the NAS, unaware that they would soon be involved in supporting space operations, did not assign the training. Further, the Agency did not establish a mechanism to track which facilities did or did not assign the training. For the 3rd time in 2 months, we ran into issues where facilities were expected to apply some aspects of ALR but were unable to do so for lack of CPC training. I will be making it a priority to work with my Agency counterparts to facilitate and expedite a revised tasking memo assigning all ATCS’s to complete the ALR eLMS course with an annual refresher requirement. 

ALR for Oceanic Environment 

The ALR Oceanic Procedures subgroup meets biweekly. The primary obstacle is interfacing the rapid and dynamic nature of space launch/reentry hazard areas with static nature of the procedural ATC environment. Numerous ideas are being explored including a workaround in TARGETS. A tabletop exercise is being planned to simulate potential solutions in TARGETS and Excel for route validation. An ATOP THA Desk Guide is being developed as well as a flow NOTAM template for the Oceanic environment. 2 missions recently highlighted an urgent need to expedite development of ALR procedure for the ATOP and nonradar environments. An ASTRA launch from Kodiak Alaska had effects where Oakland Center (ZOA) borders Honolulu Control Facility (HCF) on its western side, and an upcoming Antares launch from Wallops Island Virginia where a THA & AHA straddle a radar/nonradar boundary where New York Center provides radar services in the vicinity of Bermuda. In previous meetings I have stressed the importance of developing and maturing oceanic ALR procedures, and I will be insisting on increasing the meeting cadence to weekly meetings at a minimum until we have succeeded. 

AJR realignment 

System Operations Services (AJR-0) is conducting an internal organizational restructure. This restructure will take the space operations group, which currently operates informally under the System Operations Command Center Group (AJR-1100) and creates its own Space Operations Group (AJR-1800) line of business. The largest change in this restructure will relocate the Central Altitude Reservations Function (CARF) under AJR-1800. Notice of this proposed change was submitted to NATCA on February 1st. NATCA requested an Article 7 briefing, which is scheduled for Monday February 22nd. The change would take place no earlier than March 14th. 

Hazardous Airspace Needs Analysis (HANA) 

The Hazardous Airspace Needs Analysis (HANA) is the newest title for the AJV-S group working on developing the requirements for SDI Phase 2. The HANA concept combines NSIC with SDI Phase 2 and will be the investment which will generate and disseminate hazardous airspace in real-time on a CPC’s display. This investment is currently in the phase of developing an organizational need statement, which currently is “…to accurately identify, disseminate, and display hazardous airspace for launch, reentry, and suborbital operations to allow for a decisive and timely operational response.” NATCA has significant input into the creation of this statement. HANA is targeting IARD in FY22, FID in FY24, and implementation somewhere between FY25-FY27. 

LOA development: Several reentry LOA’s are in development including SpaceX reentry to Gulf & Atlantic sites and Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser reentry to Huntsville AL, and the Shuttle Landing Facility. Both are progressing well and should be prepared for signature in the coming months. 

Upcoming and recurring meetings: 

•               Weekly Mission Support Strategy (AJV-S) meetings 

•               Weekly meetings with AJR, AJV, and PMO counterparts 

•               Weekly MITRE meetings 

•               Weekly NITRO meetings 

•               Bi-weekly HANA meetings (formerly SDI Phase 2) 

•               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