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The emerging industry of sub-orbital vehicles (i.e.: Virgin Galactic, XCOR, Astrium, etc), the operational characteristics of future sub-orbital vehicles may require adoption of different ATM approaches for aircraft sharing the same airspace. In Europe, EASA is working to identify the best approach to accommodate sub-orbital flights into the European Aviation Regulatory System. Developments are taking place, however, it is uncertain which regulatory approach will be pursued for this emergency industry. Furthermore, the dependence of the military on space for power projection and infrastructure could lead to clashes between government and private-sector ventures.
While currently only Roscosmos has made sub-orbital flights available to consumers, companies such as SpaceX have planned space tourism projects for as soon as 2018. In addition to responding to the space tourism market, these commercial vehicles will also offer research platforms for minutes-long sustained microgravity and remote sensing experiments. To accompany this interest in space exploration, the establishment of commercial spaceports in areas such as New Mexico is underway. Rapid, routine clearances for penetration of flight levels (typically utilized by commercial aircraft) may be required by expendable launch vehicles, re-usable launch vehicles, and commercial space operations. Currently, the most research is being put into reusable launch vehicles using chemical propulsion.
The number of spaceports to accommodate the emerging sub-orbital industry is proliferating around the world. In the USA, (e.g.: New Mexico, Mojave – California, etc), in Europe (Sweden, Spain, UK, Netherlands/Curacao, etc), in Australia, in Asia (i.e.: Singapore), in Middle East (i.e.: Abu Dhabi). In the majority of the cases, the operations of these vehicles will be similar to conventional aircraft with horizontal landings and take-offs, however, other configurations exist. One new concept for developing spaceports and suborbital traffic is the Fast Space architecture, which posits speed as the advantage of utilizing space for operations. This applies to both supply and demand for suborbital travel.

Potential hazard

  1. Inadequate normal and emergency procedures for coordination with conventional air-breathing vehicles
  2. Given the increasing number of players in this emergent industry, ATM aspects (including operations and new systems to accommodate this new type of vehicles) for nominal and emergency procedures will need to be reviewed and evaluated in any future scenario.

Corroborating sources and comments

Webber, D. “Space Tourism: Its History, Future and Importance”, 2nd IAA Conference on Private Human Access to Space, 2011

Von der Dunk, F. G., “The integrated Approach – Regulating private human spaceflight as space activity, aircraft operation and high-adventure tourism”, 2nd IAA Conference on Private Human Access to Space, 2011

ACCOMMODATING SUB-ORBITAL FLIGHTS INTO THE EASA REGULATORY SYSTEM, Jean-Bruno Marciacq; Yves Morier, Filippo Tomasello, Zsuzsanna Erdelyi, Michael Gerhard

Marciacq, J-B, Morier, Y., Tomasello, F., Erdelyi, Z. and Gerhard, M., “Accomodating Sub-Orbital Flights into the EASA Regulatory System”, 2008 & 2010 (papers).

Sgobba, T and Trujillo, M., “ESA Human Rating Tailoring for Sub-Orbital Vehicles”, 2nd IAA Conference on Private Human Access to Space, 2011

Material from: 14th FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference

The next chapter in space transportation is being written right now in the State of New Mexico. Forward-thinking pioneers are developing both vertical and horizontal launch vehicles using the power of free-market enterprise.

As the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport, Spaceport America is designed with the needs of the commercial space business in mind. Unique geographic benefits, striking iconic design, and the tradition of New Mexico space leadership are coming together to create a new way to travel into space.

For a space tourism industry to be viable, flight rates about two orders of magnitude higher than those required for conventional space lift would be mandatory. That translates into a paradigm shift; a culture change in rethinking and redesigning all the major components of a space plane system. (Air Force PDF on space exploration and international competition.)

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