Wednesday, May 30, 2007

ESA Attempting to Dictate Commercial Spaceflight Safety Standards



In various web articles it was announced that the ESA and NASA are working towards establishing safety standards for commercial spaceflight via their IAASS association. It's interesting to see something like the ESA, an agency that has never flown a man-able rocket, and NASA, an organization with a proven record of killing astronauts by ignoring safety concerns, becoming so passionately involved with international space safety. This is much like the international space treaty, ratified by a host of nations with no spacefaring capability whatsoever. That NASA is involved should come as no surprise, although why they should be trying to circumvent the FAA's AST organization is beyond me (well, not actually beyond me). Probably (definitely) inter-agency competition or somesuch (somebody's feeling left out of the chain of authority). The released documents attempt to define various aspects of the launch facility and vehicle prior to there actually being any commercial manned rockets to regulate. This seems a bit of the cart before the horse. Especially since no-one has actually managed to crash a commercial manned launch vehicle to start with.

Internationally speaking, it seems to me that the biggest concern of any commercial launch vehicle is whether or not it or it's pieces are going to smack into any of the international community's vehicles, stations, or satellites. In which case the biggest concern for commercial (and other) spaceflight is going to be some degree of space traffic control (a la the FAA). It's too restrictive and way too soon for an international body to define what constitutes a manned launch vehicle or what manned launch operations should consist of.

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