NASA and FAA Sign MOU for Commercial Space Transportation

Steven Dickson and Jim Bridenstine

NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration have signed a new memorandum of understanding reaffirming the two agencies’ long relationship to work together to further American commercial space transportation, including commercial crew and cargo activities.

Read the MOU here.

The NASA-FAA memorandum reinforces the collaboration following the success of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 launch – the first astronaut mission from American soil licensed by the FAA.

The agreement covers the transportation of cargo, government and non-government passengers, and other payloads for orbital and suborbital space missions.

“Our partnership with the FAA will support the growth of American commercial aerospace capabilities that will benefit NASA, the nation, and the entire world,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “NASA is now flying commercial cargo and crew missions to the International Space Station, and soon we will send more people and science to space on new suborbital flights.”

Under the terms of the agreement, NASA and the FAA are expected to focus on building a clear framework for private industry to follow for commercial launch and re-entry. The agencies will also coordinate an approach for sharing safety data with the public to enhance understanding of the known risks of commercial space travel.

NASA also will work with the FAA to license orbital and suborbital flights, facilitate new space technology and research opportunities, and advance point-to-point commercial suborbital pilot programs. The FAA is the ruling body that governs regulations for commercial space launch and re-entry.

“The partnership between the FAA and NASA is vital to continue the growth, innovation and safety of commercial space operations, and maintain the pre-eminence of U.S. leadership in the aerospace sector,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said.

The goals and objectives of multiple U.S. space policies are shared by the agencies, including the 2020 National Space Policy and Space Policy Directives 1, 2, and 3.

The agreement also builds upon collaborations like the FAA and NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, which helped develop a framework for flying researchers from on commercial suborbital flights, allowing them to propose to fly with their NASA-sponsored payloads for the first time.

NASA also is collaborating with the FAA on commercial suborbital spaceflight activities through the Commercial Crew Program’s Suborbital Crew (SubC) efforts to extend suborbital space transportation capabilities for NASA astronauts and other NASA personnel.