U.S. unveils streamlined commercial space regulations Thursday

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration unveiled final regulations on Thursday on streamlined commercial space launch and re-entry license requirements, a senior official told Reuters.

The 785-pages regulation, which was first proposed in March 2019, consolidates four separate regulations and will apply a single set of licensing and safety rules for all vehicle operations.

The administration said it was replacing “prescriptive regulations with performance-based rules, giving industry greater flexibility to develop means of compliance.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said the regulations, which had not been updated in more than a decade, will “better facilitate commercial space transportation while protecting national security and maintaining public safety.”

Wayne Monteith, the FAA’s associate administrator for commercial space transportation, told Reuters a company will be able to get a “single five-year license to cover multiple launches from multiple locations.”

The FAA’s new rules will bring it in line with the Defense Department’s orbit collision avoidance requirements to avoid other satellites or rocket bodies. FAA’s prior rules only required avoidance with human-rated vehicles.

U.S. companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and plan to launch thousands of satellites into orbit in the coming years.

In July, Amazon said it would invest more than $10 billion to build a network of 3,236 satellites to provide high-speed broadband internet. SpaceX is building a network of roughly 12,000 satellites for its Starlink constellation in low Earth orbit.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said when space tourism begins in earnest, there are likely to be 100 launches a year.

The rule will become effective in about 90 days. The FAA plans workshops Nov. 4-6 to explain how industry will be impacted by the new requirements.

The regulation acknowledged some provisions “may increase the risk to public safety compared to the current regulations” but the FAA said “increased risk is minimal and there is a corresponding public interest benefit.”

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Bernadette Baum