House Addresses Space Transportation Safety
At a Dec. 2 hearing convened by the Aviation Subcommittee of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, the House of Representatives tackled the issue of safety in space transportation.
Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL), chairman of the subcommittee, made it clear in his opening remarks that Congress needed an update on the rapidly growing industry. Members of Congress in their oversight role questioned whether the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had the resources necessary to oversee the evolution of new technologies and programs safely.
Dr. George Nield, associate administrator for the Office of Commercial Space Transportation, reported on the FAA's successful work with the United States Air Force and commercial industry to strengthen its safety regulations and promote commercial space launches.
Dr. Gerald Dillingham, director - physical infrastructure issues for the United States Government Accountability Office, pictured, testified that the FAA had been responsive to the recommendations it made in a 2006 report on the commercial space launch industry. In particular, the GAO noted the FAA's efforts to be proactive in formulating safety regulations.
John "JP" Stevens, vice president of space systems at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), represented industry at the hearing, saying that he was alarmed by the significant portion of the space launch industry the United States has lost to international competitors. Stevens laid out several areas that he said need to be addressed if the U.S. hopes to regain competitiveness in the launch industry, including modernizing export controls and renewing the federal indemnification extension.
In closing, Rep. Costello said that he was content with the FAA's work, but noted Congress would keep a closer eye on the industry going forward.