Whether it was building a rocket to the moon, or welcoming the space shuttle home, the Antelope Valley is the certified aerospace capitol of the world.
In further promotion of commercial space flight, President Barack Obama this week signed into law H.R. 6007, new legislation to give the Secretary of Transportation the authority to conduct aeronautical studies at spaceports to study the potential impact of structures on spacecraft arriving or departing from a licensed launch site.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) said the commercial space industry is “flying a little higher” as a result of the decision.
“With the president’s signature on this legislation, our spaceports will be able to prioritize safety and minimize the risk of structures interfering with the flight path of spacecraft on launch or reentry,” said McCarthy, sponsor of the legislation.
“Ingenuity has helped push the commercial space flight innovators to new heights and this legislation, along with the comprehensive SPACE Act that was signed into law last year, ensures our government policies keep with the progress.”
Most spaceports are located at existing airports, such as Mojave Air and Space Port, which is classified as a “general aviation” airport. Because of this, the FAA is somewhat limited to the metrics prescribed for studying potential structural obstructions to general aviation airports and aircraft. Therefore, the FAA is unable to take into account the unique trajectories of suborbital vehicles. The new legislation hopes to alleviate this difficulty.
“Mojave Air and Space Port is pleased to see another positive step forward in protecting the operational investment by so many, government and private sector alike,” said Karina Dress, CEO of Mojave Air and Space Port.
George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic and the Spaceship Company, released a statement regarding H.R. 6077:
“Majority Leader McCarthy has shown that he is committed to helping keep Mojave at the forefront of commercial spaceflight. This bill will help ensure that spaceports like ours are able to operate without fear of encroachment.”
In August, the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation awarded Virgin Galactic an operator license for SpaceShipTwo. The license award will ultimately permit commercial operations of the spacecraft. Not long after the liscense was granted, the Virgin Galactic team conducted a taxi test at Mojave Air and Space Port with SpaceShipTwo (pulled by an SUV) which company officials hailed as an important step toward the eventual flight test program.
“While we still have much work ahead to fully test this spaceship in flight, I am confident that our world-class team is up to the challenge,” said Mike Moses, Virgin Galactic senior vice president of operations.