Speaking before the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics Wednesday, SpaceShipOne designer Burt Rutan said the commercial space industry will thrive but the current regulatory system is need of repair and nearly destroyed his program. Rutan was one a of a group experts in the emerging commercial space market to testify before lawmakers. Congress is attempting to define what role the government should or shouldn’t play in supporting entrepreneurial space progress. … “The airline experience has shown us that it is not just technology that provides safety but the maturity that comes from a high-level of flight activity,” Rutan said. However, Rutan criticized the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and its office of the Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation (AST), saying “the AST process, focusing only on the non-involved public, just about ruined my program.” AST’s stated mission is to ensure protection of the public, property, and the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States during a commercial launch or re-entry activity and to encourage, facilitate, and promote U.S. commercial space transportation. “It resulted in cost-overruns,” Rutan said. “It increased the risk for my test pilots. It did not reduce the risk to the non-involved public. It destroyed our safety policy of always question the product, never defend it.” The regulatory process imposed by AST, Rutan continued, “was grossly misapplied for our research tests. And worse yet, is likely to be misapplied for the regulation of future commercial spaceliners.”
Ted Balaker is an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and founding partner of Korchula Productions, a film and new media production company devoted to making important ideas entertaining.