Research Projects

Guidebook for airport and airspace practitioners on commercial space operations

Assigned to Charles Murphy
Last Edited by Charles Murphy

Produce a guidebook to provide a thorough overview of the emerging commercial space market and its implications for air traffic and airports. The research should include launch and reentry operations and cover emerging markets such as commercial crew operations to the International Space Station, space tourism, and fast point-to-point travel. The guidebook should address integrating flight operations with existing air traffic, which in the case of ISS crew return may involve preparations to use multiple potential landing sites until just before landing.

Background (Describe the current situation or problem in the industry, and how your idea would address it.)

The growth of commercial space operations, and in particular flights carrying people, have important safety considerations which affect airspace utilization. Currently temporary flight restrictions are issued to clear airspace before launch, but as the frequency of spaceflight operations are expected to increase, closing large amounts of airspace for hours at a time will become increasingly untenable. Areas currently affected by these airspace closures include Florida and Virginia for orbital launch operations, but Colorado, Texas, and New Mexico are also expecting additional suborbital operations.

Operators transporting crew back from the International Space Station are looking to maximize their flexibility to conduct successful reentries. As noted in a recent GAO report (GAO-15-706), these operators intend to use a dynamic decision process to select from available landing sites, and the preferred site may not be known until a few hours before landing with the potential to affect air traffic operations on fairly short notice.

Space tourism operators are also considering developing fast point-to-point travel between long haul destinations . The effects on integrating these operations with existing air traffic will have to be considered.

This research is needed to provide a comprehensive view of the effects of commercial space operations as new entrants into the national airspace system. This project adds to existing research on noise and emissions from commercial space operations and provides a system-wide view.

The FAA is currently studying the issue and developing ConOps for the integration of commercial space into the NAS (CSINAS). This research would include the relevant background, analysis in one package for the airport and airspace practitioner.

Objective (What is the desired product or result that will help the airport industry?)

Produce a guidebook to provide a thorough overview of the emerging commercial space market and its implications for air traffic and airports. The research should include launch and reentry operations and cover emerging markets such as commercial crew operations to the International Space Station, space tourism, and fast point-to-point travel. The guidebook should address integrating flight operations with existing air traffic, which in the case of ISS crew return may involve preparations to use multiple potential landing sites until just before landing. It will also provide an understanding of how space operations TFRs affect air traffic and an overview of the ConOps being developed to mitigate their effects.

Approach (Describe in general terms the steps you think are needed to achieve the objective.)

Proposed Tasks:

Survey the literature on commercial space operations and plans for the future. Focus
on the implications for
airports, their surrounding communities, and for airspace utilization.

Identify key factors of commercial space operations of importance to airport and airspace practitioners.
Examples include launch and reentry operations,
emissions and noise (including sonic booms), effects of
temporary flight restrictions (TFRs), shared airspace utilization, high
-altitude operations, and safety concerns.

Analyze the above factors and provide guidance for assessing the implications for air
port operations, the national
airspace, and how to plan for them.

Cost Estimate and Backup (Provide a cost estimate and support for how you arrived at the estimate.)

$350,000 / 18 months
This is primarily a research and writing project. It is not expected to involve modeling or data analysis, or any such
analysis is expected to
be high
-level. This budget ought to be adequate for a solid report.

Related Research - List related ACRP and other industry research; describe gaps (see link to Research Roadmaps above), and describe how your idea would address these gaps. This is a critical element of a synthesis topic submission.

This research is related to previous ACRP reports and includes a cross section of issues including emissions and
noise and temporary flight restrictions:

ACRP 02
-66 Com
mercial Space Operations Noise and Sonic Boom Modeling and Analysis

ACRP 02
-81 Commercial Space Operations Noise and Sonic Boom Measurements

ACRP 02
-85 Commercial Space Vehicle Emissions Modeling

ACRP 02
-86 Understanding Impacts to Airports from Temporary Flight Restrictions

GAO Report GAO-
15
-706, Commercial Space Launch Industry Developments Present Multiple Challenges

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