View Full Version : From the Director's Keyboard: Space is Hard [2021-02-01]

2021-Feb-01, 03:35 PM
Last week I predicted that we'd see another hop of a SpaceX (http://www.spacex.com/) Starship. It turns out when we say "space is hard", we're also referring to it being hard to get FAA (https://www.faa.gov/) clearance to get off the ground.

Based on the current airspace restrictions that are planned, there will be no hops this week. I'm hoping to be proven wrong again, but this is where we are.

As we move into a new commercial space future, we're going to see the FAA struggling to define new policies to handle launching high explosive granaries from locations within miles of tourist destinations and residential areas.

Early barnstormers proved their relative safety by literally flying through barns while random community members sat in the second seat. (Yes, there were a lot of accidents, but there were also a whole lot of random people who enjoyed flying.) Moving from barnstorming (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barnstorming) to commercial flight required rules to make it safe for multiple airplanes to operate together and procedures to handle the emergencies that do occur. Test flights (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_test)? Those were generally performed out in deserts away from anything but scrub brush.

Rocketry had a very different start. Rockets tend to blow up. A lot. They still blow up. They are basically giant missiles that only a handful of super rich tourists have gotten to fly in addition to elite astronauts. And until now, rocket tests were kept far away from everything too.

It is hard to figure out how to safely authorize rockets near humans, and until the FAA figures it out, we can all impatiently look forward to more Starship flight tests in San Padre.

Here is to hoping next week we have ground-to-spaceflight restrictions planned in just the right place to see a rocket test.

In love and science,

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