Monday, September 10, 2012

Canadian Rocket Builders Should Benefit from FAA Regulation Changes

According to the September 5th, 2012 post "FAA Smooths the Path to Commercial Spaceflight" on the IP in Space website, new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations will allow low cost providers of amateur class III advanced high powered rockets to compete for NASA rocket launch contracts under the NASA Flight Opportunities Program (FOP) and use the expertise gained as part of the development cycle to build larger and more capable launchers.

Patent agent Andrew Rush.
Canadian companies, such as Winnipeg based Bristol Aerospace (since 1961 the manufacturer of hundreds of Black Brant suborbital sounding rockets), the Gormley, Ontario and Sarasota, Florida based Cesaroni Technologies (which is a subcontractor to US based UP Aerospace, the manufacturer of the Spaceloft XL series of sounding rockets) and Toronto based Continuum Aerospace are well placed to benefit from these changes.

The article, written by Andrew Rush, a patent agent for the Virginia based PCT Law Group states that the FAA changes are important to drive down the cost of rocket launches:
Despite the name, these rockets are extremely capable, lucrative launch vehicles and licensing opens more commercial opportunities. For example, UP Aerospace’s Spaceloft family of vehicles are (formally) Class III rockets, however they have the capability of flying higher than 150 km (which is higher than the FAA definition of the class III) Since 2006, UP Aerospace has conducted six launches on this class of vehicle, servicing over fifty customers under waivers.

Clearly, there is a market for commercial suborbital flight. Suborbital flights to 100+ km offer access to microgravity environments, provide test beds for satellite hardware, and carry novelty items to space. Suborbital rockets may also carry x-ray telescopes and enable atmospheric science experiments.
The article goes on to state that Class III rockets "may serve as a stepping stone in the development cycles of many emerging aerospace companies. Both Masten Space Systems and Armadillo Aerospace developed and operated several Class III rockets during the course of their development cycles. These vehicles are still in use today!"

As outlined in my January 3rd, 2011 post "Advocating DND and CSA Rockets," the technical skills required to to build small orbital rocket launchers already exist in Canada. It's only the development funding that's problematic.

But while that may have been true in 2011, its likely no longer the case in 2012.

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