A composite shot of a Falcon 9 launch from SLC-4E at Vandenberg, CA, and its booster landing back at LZ-4 just meters away from the launch pad. Credits: SpaceX

FAA Paves the Way for Seamless Space Launch License Processing

FAA to create SpARC committee with the aim of refining space launch licensing, balancing safety and efficiency amid industry growth

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) unveiled plans at the FAA Commercial Space Transportation conference today to overhaul its licensing procedures. This strategic move aims to streamline the approval process for space launch and reentry licenses while upholding paramount safety standards.

A composite shot of a Falcon 9 launch from SLC-4E at Vandenberg, CA, and its booster landing back at LZ-4 just meters away from the launch pad. Credits: SpaceX
A composite shot of a Falcon 9 launch from SLC-4E at Vandenberg, CA, and its booster landing back at LZ-4 just meters away from the launch pad. Credits: SpaceX

Central to this initiative is the establishment of the Space Launch and Reentry Licensing Rulemaking Committee (SpARC). Tasked with scrutinizing and refining the existing licensing framework outlined in Part 450, SpARC will convene experts and stakeholders to identify avenues for optimization.

“The SpARC input will help us reduce the burden on commercial space transportation applicants and licensees and enable the FAA to process applications and make safety determinations with greater expediency,” said Kelvin B. Coleman, FAA’s Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation.


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The process

Scheduled for formal inception in the upcoming months, SpARC’s formation follows extensive industry outreach efforts spearheaded by the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee. Discussions slated for the committee’s April meeting will shape SpARC’s mandate moving forward.

Under the proposed guidelines, all FAA-licensed space operators must align with Part 450 regulations by March 2026. The agency envisions a streamlined process, reducing the frequency of license requests by providing comprehensive guidance to applicants. Measures include equipping applicants with tools to articulate compliance measures effectively and introducing an electronic application portal for seamless submissions.

A Map to commercial, government, and active private spaceports around the US. Credits: FAA
A Map to commercial, government, and active private spaceports around the US. Credits: FAA

In addition, recognizing the burgeoning demand for commercial space ventures, the FAA has augmented its workforce to handle the influx of license applications efficiently. Additionally, it has ramped up support mechanisms for applicants, offering pre-application consultations, advisory circulars, and virtual workshops.

Moreover, the urgency for regulatory refinement is underscored by the exponential growth witnessed in commercial space operations. In 2023, the FAA reported a record 124 licensed commercial space operations, triple the tally from 2020. Projections indicate a further doubling of licensed operations by 2026, accentuating the imperative for proactive regulatory measures.


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Edoardo Giammarino

Edoardo Giammarino

Co-Founder & Administrator. Drummer and Red Cross Volunteer, born in 1997. I like analog photography and videomaking. Firmly music-addicted.

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