House Transportation Panel To Examine Commercial Spaceflight

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WASHINGTON — A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) official in charge of licensing commercial launches and a self-taught propulsion engineer preparing to launch paying passengers to the edge of space are among the witnesses slated to testify Dec. 2 at a House Transportation and Infrastructure aviation subcommittee hearing on the safety and regulation of U.S. commercial spaceflight.

The subcommittee announced Nov. 30 that the witnesses asked to testify at the hearing include:

  • George Nield, the FAA’s associate administrator for commercial space transportation;
  • XCOR President Jeff Greason, a computer chip designer-turned-rocket scientist who served on the U.S. Review of Human Space Flight Plans Committee this summer and is currently vice chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation;
  • Gerald Dillingham, director of the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s physical infrastructure issues division;
  • J.P. Stevens, the Arlington, Va.-based Aerospace Industries Association’s vice president of space systems;
  • James Testwuide, chairman of the Great Lakes Aerospace Science and Education Center, Spaceport Sheboygan, Wis.

The subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) is expected to consider regulatory changes during the next three years as NASA gets ready to retire its space shuttle fleet, firms like XCOR look to launch passengers into suborbital space, and private companies including Space Exploration Technologies prepare to deliver cargo and eventually people to the international space station, according to the hearing charter posted Nov. 30 on the subcommittee’s Web site. The panel will also examine the effect of  space tourism and commercial spaceports will have on air traffic control and the safe and effective use of the national airspace system, as well as the need to ensure passenger and crew safety.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee hearing is scheduled to take place at the same time the House Science and Technology space and aeronautics subcommittee is holding its own hearing on ensuring the safety of human spaceflight.