Executives from SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic urged senators on October 19, 2023, to improve the Federal Aviation Administration’s regulatory and licensing processes. The executives said that the FAA’s current processes are not keeping up with the pace of innovation in the commercial space industry, and that this is putting U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage.
CNBC reported, SpaceX Vice President of Build and Flight Reliability Bill Gerstenmaier said during his testimony; “We’ve entered an inflection point, with incredible innovation in commercial space launch. The criticality is especially true in the face of strategic competition from state actors like China,” .
“SpaceX is under contract with NASA to use Starship to land American astronauts on the moon before China does.”
“The FAA has neither the resources nor the flexibility to implement its regulatory obligations,” Gerstenmaier said.
Caryn Schenewerk, a former industry leader and expert, voiced concerns regarding recent modifications made by the FAA, claiming that rather than streamlining licensing reviews, they have increased complexity and cost. The FAA’s space office was headed by former Air Force brigadier general Wayne Monteith, who recommended that Congress take into account combining space laws to create a more effective authorization and licensing procedure.
Gerstenmaier said that the FAA’s commercial space office needs at least twice the resources that it has today to handle the licensing of rocket launches. He also said that the FAA needs to streamline its regulatory processes and make it easier for companies to get the approvals they need to launch rockets.
Rob Meyerson, the president of Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin venture, echoed Gerstenmaier’s concerns. Meyerson said that the FAA’s current regulatory process is “cumbersome and time-consuming,” and that it is a major obstacle to the growth of the commercial space industry.
“We need the FAA to be a partner with us, not an adversary,” Meyerson said. “We need them to be able to keep up with the pace of innovation in our industry, and we need them to be able to streamline their regulatory processes.”
George T. Whitesides, the CEO of Virgin Galactic, also called for improvements to the FAA’s regulatory process. Whitesides said that the FAA needs to be more “predictable and transparent” in its dealings with commercial space companies.
“We need to know what the rules are, and we need to know how they will be applied,” Whitesides said. “We can’t be constantly second-guessing what the FAA is going to do.”
SpaceX is a communications company, space transport services provider, and aerospace manufacturer based in Hawthorne, California. Elon Musk started it in 2002 with the intention of lowering the cost of space travel and making it possible to colonize Mars. SpaceX is the company that created and produced the Dragon spacecraft, the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles, and Starlink, a constellation of broadband internet in low-Earth orbit.
Since its founding in 2002, SpaceX has experienced rapid growth. The company has raised more than $20 billion in capital, and its current market value exceeds $150 billion. Additionally, the number of employees at SpaceX has increased to over 12,000 people.
The company’s growth was fueled by success in developing and launching reusable rockets. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is now the world’s most reliable launch vehicle, and the Falcon Heavy rocket is currently the most powerful rocket. SpaceX also developed the Dragon spacecraft, which is used to transport cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station.
Today, SpaceX is the largest supplier of space launch services on earth. In addition to governments, telecommunications companies and societies, the company has launched satellites for a number of customers.