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Commercial Space

Paul Behan (ZJX) 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 to fully integrate commercial space operations rather than segregate. 

Acceptable Level of Risk (ALR) Contingency procedures subgroup  

Two Document Change Proposals (DCP’s) to the 7110.64 and 7210.3 were put before a Safety Risk Management Panel (SRMP) this month. The change is the creation of the Debris Response Area (DRA), which will replace Transitional Hazard Areas (THA’s) used for commercial space operations (excluding capsule and suborbital operations) in the radar environment. The DRA will only be activated if there should be a debris generating event in the NAS and will have a published ATC response & suggested alert broadcast phraseology.  

ALR Training Subgroup  

Due to the number and extent of the changes being proposed to ALR the 2019 eLMS course will need to be updated 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 viewed by the ATCS. This briefing is meant to be a temporary fix until all ALR changes are complete and a new eLMS course can be developed. With the DRA SRMP complete, the training subgroup will finalize the DRA delta-briefing and prepare it for publication once the DRA SRM document is accepted by the agency. The expected DRA publication and delta briefing release date is December 2021. AJI will issue a new tasking memo which will assign the original eLMS course and subsequent delta briefing to all operational NAS personnel including TMCs, STMCs, FLMs, OMs, regardless of facility.  

ALR for Oceanic Environment Subgroup 

The ALR Oceanic Procedures subgroup meets biweekly. A tabletop exercise to develop and test procedures for building airspace reservations in ATOP, inserting flow NOTAMs, and activating THA reservations was held in April, and another will be held in June. The planning meeting was led by AJR-1800 Space Ops, using a launch package that simulated a Kodiak mission with a THA. The objective of the exercise was route validation and coordination. Several challenges were identified, including outstanding issues surrounding roles & responsibilities and the creation of written procedures which need to be addressed. The team’s next focus is part two of the tabletop which will take the information from the planning meeting and attempt to depict it in ATOP at the sectors. 

MITRE Gap Analysis 

 The MITRE Corporation has been tasked by AJV-S to perform an ATO Space Services Gap Analysis and stakeholder outreach. MITRE will provide technical and engineering analyses to review previously identified shortfalls, gaps, and needed services required for the integration of space launch and reentry operations in consultation with FAA operational personnel. The purpose is to facilitate the FAA in establishing priorities and developing strategies for shortfall mitigation. I will be participating in these recurring meetings until the study is complete.  

The Hazardous Airspace Needs Analysis (HANA) group has been re-branded again, this time with the title of NAS Space Integration Capabilities, Enhancement 1” (NSIC-E1). To recap this effort began in what was then AJV-8 as “Space Integration Capabilities” (SIC), then under AJV-S became HANA, and now NSIC-E1. While the exact scope is still being deliberated the overall intent remains that this will be the investment which will generate and disseminate hazardous airspace in real-time on a CPC’s display. A series of meetings are scheduled to discuss needs with key ATC operational stakeholders.  

NAS Integration of Transition Operations (NITRO) is an AJV-S effort focused on integrating a wide array of upper-Class E operations into the National Airspace System. NITRO objectives include improving situational awareness of launch and reentry operations, implementing various data sharing mechanisms, and eventually culminating with procedures for ATC separation of space vehicles, UASs, and other users of upper-Class E. These objectives are broken into 3-year, 5-year, and 7+ year timeframes. I am participating in a series of recurring Technical Interchange Meetings (TIMs) to provide input on the development and refinement of these objectives to be included in the ATO corporate plan which is due in September. NITRO TIM #3 was held on May 26th and went into 3 scenarios: Unmanned balloons, High Altitude-Long Endurance (HALE) aircraft, and supersonic passenger transport. The major issues for NITRO are the transition to and from upper class-E and separation vs. segregation once in upper class-E. The most common denominator for these operations and all other NITRO issues is the absence of FAA policy and regulatory framework to support safe and increased NAS access for users of upper class-E.  

The Space Data Integrator (SDI): Initial Key Site testing took place on 5/21 at the Command Center and Tech Center, the system did not pass. A data bandwidth issue resulted in system being too slow to be used operationally with transmission/display lag times of up to 10 seconds. The result was AJR not accepting the system for test-NCP operational functionality. The program office will work with FTI to complete the outstanding deployment actions.  

NAS Space Integration Capabilities (NSIC): NSIC was presented at the FAA Enterprise Architecture Board (FEAB) on 5/26, completing the milestone of Initial Investment Decision (IID) on the space roadmap. The team continues to work on establishing a collaborative work group (CWG) to support the NSIC Investment Analysis activities. NATCA responded to the Agency’s M1 proposal and if accepted, we will proceed with SME solicitation and selection.  

LOA development: Several reentry LOA’s are in development including SpaceX reentry to Gulf & Atlantic sites and Sierra Spaces’ (formerly Sierra Nevada Corporation) Dream Chaser reentry to Huntsville Alabama and the Shuttle Landing Facility. Both are progressing and should be prepared for signature in the coming months. The SpaceX Starship LOA with ZHU is also underway.   

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 

Weekly Commercial Space LOA meetings 

Bi-weekly NAS Space Integration Capabilities (NSIC) 

Bi-weekly NSIC-E1 meetings (formerly HANA, SDI Phase 2) 

Bi-weekly Acceptable Level of Risk (ALR) meetings 

Bi-weekly Acceptable Level of Risk (ALR) subgroup meetings 

Bi-weekly ATO/AST meetings (formerly JSpOG) 

Monthly Space Data Integrator (SDI) meetings 

Quarterly Technical Interchange Meetings (TIM’s) 

LOA development meetings – ongoing 

Training development – ongoing 

Facility/site visits – as needed 

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