Emerging Issues for the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation


Emerging Issues for the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation


John Sloan

About the Speaker

John Sloan is a Senior Space Policy Analyst and Program Lead for International Outreach at the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA/AST). Since joining the FAA in 2001, he has provided industry and policy analysis including representing the Department of Transportation in White House-interagency deliberations on the National Space Policy (2006 and 2010) and the National Space Transportation Policy (2004 and 2013). From 2001-2008, he led the preparation of FAA’s annual commercial launch demand forecasts and was a contracting officer technical representative. In 2008, Mr. Sloan established an FAA strategy for international commercial space transportation outreach including the international promotion and adoption of FAA regulations.

Since 2009, Mr. Sloan has been the Chair of the Commercial Spaceflight Safety Committee, a technical committee of the International Astronautical Federation. The committee runs technical paper sessions at the annual International Astronautical Congress.

Prior to joining the FAA, Mr. Sloan worked for the ANSER Corporation in Arlington, Virginia, as a space policy analyst in support of the U.S. Air Force Space Launch Acquisition Office from 1996-2000. He also worked as a space policy analyst for Aries Analytics Inc., a consulting firm from 1995-1996 in Arlington, Virginia.

Mr. Sloan has a Master of Science degree in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota (1994) and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Telecommunications from the University of Kentucky (1989).


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The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST), part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, has licensed over 230 launches since 1989. The FAA licenses, regulates, and promotes U.S. commercial space transportation including expendable launch vehicles, new reusable launch vehicles that can carry people such as Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and XCOR’s Lynx, and the operation of non-federal launch sites or what are more commonly known as commercial spaceports. There are 9 licensed spaceports in the U.S.

Although the FAA licenses launch and reentry for public safety, it does not have authority for in-orbit space transportation. In addition, unlike for passenger aircraft, FAA/AST does not have authority to protect people onboard commercial space vehicles nor does it certify vehicles. In 2014, the FAA issued “Recommended Practices for Human Space Flight Occupant Safety,” a document which could serve as a foundation for future regulations, if needed.

There are about 30 “pre-application consultations” that are on-going with AST including proposals for new vehicles, new spaceports, safety approvals and requests for payload reviews. AST staff has grown to 81 people with a budget request to add more in FY 2016. With NASA increasingly shifting to commercial launch services for supply of the International Space Station (and return) and soon for astronaut crew transfer, the visibility of the commercial space transportation industry has increased.

Both NASA and FAA have worked closely together to define their respective oversight responsibilities in the successful Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program and are currently working together in the Commercial Crew Program. Separately, the FAA is promoting its regulations for international adoption as suborbital companies market their services outside the United States. All of these indicators are a sign of U.S. industry growth and generate new issues for the FAA.

This presentation will cover an introduction to FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation and policy issues faced by the office and commercial industry including gaps in regulatory authority. The presentation will also include the competitive position of the U.S. in the global commercial launch services market and FAA’s international goals.

Publication Date



Grand Forks, ND

Emerging Issues for the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation