Los Angeles, CA, May 6, 2004 – The Space Frontier Foundation congratulated the FAA’s Office of Space Transportation (AST) for issuing its second license for a suborbital manned rocket flight.
The Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) mission license was given to XCOR Aerospace of Mojave, California, to test RLV technologies prior to suborbital passenger travel. XCOR’s Randall Clague was presented with the license by FAA’s George Nield in April at the Space Access conference in Phoenix, Arizona.
The Foundation said the launch license, which followed a previous license issued to famed aircraft designer Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites company by only weeks, indicates the U.S. government is actively and positively engaged with the new “Alternative Space” companies represented by the two firms.
“Normally, the second of anything wouldn’t be such important news,” stated Foundation Executive Director Tony DeTora. “But this is a very different document than that given to Burt. It shows that AST is flexible, on the ball, and ready to support this new industry, by dealing quickly and efficiently with their very different needs – while protecting the safety of the public and the environment.”
The difference in the two licenses issued so far is that XCOR’s launch license allows incremental test flights of a vehicle that has not yet been completed, whereas the first license gave permission for Scaled Composites to test fly an existing vehicle. The FAA suborbital space flight license is required for U.S. contenders in the X-Prize competition, which will award $10 million to the first company or organization to launch a vehicle capable of carrying three people to a height of about 62 miles, return safely to Earth, and repeat the flight with the same vehicle within two weeks.
“We are finally moving away from the old paradigms of rockets and airplanes and into a new world of space transportation,” explained DeTora. “To enable this new industry to grow quickly, it cannot be burdened by outdated rules which were designed for ballistic missiles and gigantic commercial aircraft development projects with billions in capital to spend.” He continued, “the public is served by allowing tests flights for a variety of concepts, especially if one or more of them eventually result in low cost access to space for the American people.”
The licenses make room for two approaches to work simultaneously, by supporting those seeking to fly vehicles that have already been funded and seeking the chance to further research and develop their concepts, with companies that have developed ideas and teams seeking assurances for investors that they will not hit a regulatory roadblock on their way to flight.
The Foundation will further its outreach programs this October by sponsoring a full-day event addressing launch licenses and other exciting developments in the Alternative Space movement. SFC XIII, the Foundation’s thirteenth annual conference, will be aboard the SS Queen Mary in Long Beach, California October 8-10, 2004.