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Jenn Lemmon
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Coexisting with Bicycles and Vertical Launch Vehicles with Fly-Back Boosters

How to equitably address the rights to the road is a longstanding conflict, and one we can certainly relate to with our airspace, where our issues are even more complex and growing. In the case of commercial space operations, the number of space launches increased by 150 percent from 2015 to 2018, and we predict that to grow another 60 percent by 2020. We can’t continue to rope off sections of our airspace for hours at a time for a launch, but we’re making headway on a number of fronts that will help us get closer to true air traffic integration.

The first is our Space Data Integrator, or SDI. This tool will allow us to exchange automated data on launch and re-entry in real time with our air traffic management facilities and provide better visibility into vehicle location, status and health. When SDI makes its way through our acquisition management process, we expect it to reduce the larger than required aircraft hazard areas that we use now, release blocked airspace more quickly and decrease the number of aircraft exposed to a space mission.

The ATO also has updated our concept of operations on commercial space, and we soon plan to release an update to our roadmap, which identifies the infrastructure, policies and services we must adjust to reduce the chance of performance deficiencies and delays. We’ve also developed letters of agreement, or LOAs, between license and permit applicants and the air traffic facilities that have jurisdiction over the airspace where the launch or re-entry will take place.

Several of our ATO co-workers and I joined colleagues from Commercial Space, Safety and other lines of business to participate in the FAA’s commercial space conference this week to discuss those and other initiatives, including the work of our ATO Commercial Space Integration Team, safety risk management panels and aviation rulemaking committees.

Also, at 2 p.m. Nov. 8, we plan to unveil a new room at the Command Center to house our Joint Space Operations Group, which manages the tactical operations of space launch and re-entry operations. We plan to name the room after NASA’s space shuttle Challenger crew. Click here to watch the ceremony live.

I appreciate everyone who is doing the hard work of integration as we consider the needs of all airspace users without skipping a beat on safety!

Thanks everyone!

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