Legal Aspects of Airport Programs

Legal Aspects of Spacecraft Operations at Airports

Assigned to Gael Le Bris
Last Edited by Gael Le Bris

The purpose of this digest would be to explore the legal issues of operating spacecraft under 14 CFR Parts 400 to 460 at Part 139 and non-certified aviation facilities.

Background--State the problem and why research is necessary. Highlight the legal and regulatory issues as they specifically pertain to airports.

Among the 12 spaceport operations licenses delivered by the FAA, at least 6 cover facilities that are shared between aircraft and spacecraft. These spacecraft operations and spacecraft technology research & development generate specific hazards and potential liabilities that are novel at "conventional" airports.

Objective--State the objective, including a brief description of the intended deliverable, which airport stakeholders are the intended audience, and how their needs will be met by the deliverable.

The purpose of this digest would be to explore the legal issues of operating spacecraft under 14 CFR Parts 400 to 460 at Part 139 and non-certified aviation facilities. Obligations and liabilities of non-certified (non-Part 139) airports are an important part of this research as it is likely that spacecraft operators will seek aviation facilities where the aircraft activity is not a hindrance to their own operations. Currently non-certified airports licensed as spaceports include Cecile Airport and Mojave Air & Space Port.

Note: The goal of this project is NOT to compare Parts 400-450 and Part 139 from an airfield/airspace engineering perspective. This is a legal research that would identify and discuss legal issues, and compile case laws if any, pertaining to the obligations and liabilities of airport operators holding a FAA spaceport operations license and accommodating such operations.

Relevance to Airport Legal Issues--ACRP's Legal Research Program focuses on legal and regulatory challenges and issues as they specifically pertain to airports. Please describe how this topic is relevant and unique to airports such that it should be researched.

Airport certification and spaceport license rely on separate rules and regulations. As of today, six facilities holding FAA spaceport operations licenses are also aviation facilities. Legal aspects may include or cover land use, potential conflicts with FAA grant assurances, emergency legal preparedness, implementation and operation of SMS, etc.

Note: The integration of spacecraft operations is one of the new or emerging issues of interest identified during the ACRP 2018 Thought Leader Forum in Irvine, CA.

Information Sources--Organizations, individuals, or related literature.

- 14 CFR Parts 139 and 400-450

- FAA Grant Assurances

- FAA Advisory Circulars (Series 150)

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Idea No. 571