Los Angeles, CA, April 16, 2004 – The Space Frontier Foundation hailed the U.S. government’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) for issuing the first license for a Human Sub-Orbital Rocket Launch. AST has issued licenses for over 150 commercial launches since its inception in 1984, but this is the first license to authorize a civilian human carrying rocket flight.
“This is a historic year for the opening of space to humanity,” said the Foundation’s Rick Tumlinson. “By issuing this license, the U.S. government has acknowledged this important new industry, and opened the door to space to the American people. We applaud those in Washington who have helped cut the red tape that has been tying these incredible rocketeers to the ground.”
The license was issued to Scaled Composites of Mojave, California to allow a series of piloted test flights of its experimental rocketship. Upon receipt of the license, the firm, headed by famed aircraft designer Burt Rutan, immediately launched its “Space Ship One” sub-orbital spacecraft on a test flight to an altitude of over 105,000 feet – achieving a speed of over Mach 2.
“At a time when many have been decrying the loss of technological leadership by the U.S., this step shows that some people in our government recognize where the future lies for this nation – straight up,” he continued. “While protecting public and environmental safety, the new licensing system developed by AST will allow rapid progress in this extremely important new field. More licenses mean more vehicles flying and more vehicles flying means faster development.”
As other firms move through the new licensing process, the Foundation is looking forward to several new entrants in the field of commercial human spaceflight, creating a competitive renaissance in a field traditionally dominated by high cost, limited use, government oriented projects. The Foundation, which has long fought for an open frontier in space, congratulated the FAA (the home of the AST) and enthusiastically supports the work of visionary leaders like Patti Grace Smith, who heads the office and has championed this cause for many years.
Tumlinson added, “Patti and her team have taken many risks and spent a long time learning the needs and realities of these new space pioneers. By creating a more certain environment, they can now raise the capital they need to build these great new rocketships. Working together, the government and private sector can greatly speed the time when you and I can buy a ticket to ride into space ourselves. The frontier is nearly at hand.”