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.
- Inadequate normal and emergency procedures for coordination with conventional air-breathing vehicles
- 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.