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Tue, Jun 11, 2024

FAA Adds Launch and Reentry Date from Virgin Galactic, Sierra Space

Addition of New Commercial Operators Fleshes Out Traffic Data Initiative

The FAA has added two more companies to its Space Data Integrator tool, adding to the public's situational awareness and helping the administration manage air traffic during space operations.

As the nascent space industry has built up its footing in the public sphere, the FAA has tried to keep a delicate balance between operational safety and communal efficiency. On one hand, unproven, uncertain launches of brand-new rocket designs bring with them a host of potential safety concerns, necessitating a wide berth by all civil traffic that could possibly be affected. On the other hand, that berth causes some pretty consistent disruption when left in place over long periods, further disaffecting operators when they feel the caution is no longer entirely warranted. The Space Data Integrator system allows the FAA to receive vehicle telemetry from space launches, taking the guesswork out of launches when managing traffic. The most recent additions are Sierra Space and Virgin Galactic, who will now be listed in the SDI system for all.

Now, the FAA can reopen airspace in as little as 3 minutes after a launch or reentry vehicle safely transits a designated hazard area, obviating the need to keep large swathes of airspace open for a long period out of an abundance of caution. The SDI addition helps the FAA respond to anomalies, too, should something far outside expectations come to being. The administration believes even more operators will join in the SDI effort in the coming years, since the tool was only established in 2021. As the FAA integrates additional systems and operators, the data will expand, and launch closures will slowly begin to affect the average passenger less and less. 

“The United States has one of the most complex airspaces in the world, with everything from drones to commercial and general aviation to space launches,” said Tim Arel, Chief Operating Officer of the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization. “The coordination of all that aircraft is improved with more data. We’ve made significant progress in reducing how long airspace is closed for space operations, and the SDI tool is the foundation for future improvements to drive it down even more while also ensuring safety.”

FMI: www.faa.gov


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