U.S. Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Eric Schmitt are urging the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to hasten the approval of commercial space launches. Their concern is that delays could weaken the U.S. position in the global space competition.
In a letter to FAA associate administrator Kelvin Coleman, the senators emphasized the need to streamline launch and reentry licensing processes. They cited increasing U.S. commercial space activity and growing Chinese state-backed space efforts as reasons for urgency.
Escalating Space Launch Activity
The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, responsible for public safety and launch approvals, has seen a significant rise in launch requests. This year alone, it has licensed 104 launches, a substantial increase from 26 in 2019.
An FAA spokesperson acknowledged the importance of keeping pace with industry demand. They highlighted efforts to recruit and retain staff for handling the increased workload.
Focus on High-Priority Missions
The senators stressed the significance of high-priority missions, such as returning Americans to the moon. They referenced SpaceX’s Starship, integral to NASA’s Artemis program, urging the FAA to expedite its licensing.
Regulatory Delays Concern SpaceX
At a recent Senate hearing, SpaceX’s William Gerstenmaier expressed frustration over regulatory delays. He noted that licensing often takes longer than rocket development, hindering progress.
The senators warned that regulatory delays might allow China to narrow the space capability gap with the U.S. They are concerned about China’s parallel moon landing efforts, comparable to NASA’s Artemis program.
The senators have asked Coleman to detail what resources are needed to speed up the launch licensing process. They expect a response by November 28, highlighting the urgency of maintaining U.S. leadership in space exploration.