The Space Foundation has voiced their strong support for two important commercial space regulatory milestones:
- On July 29, the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (OCST) issued a license to Virgin Galactic for its SpaceShipTwo suborbital spaceplane, enabling the company to resume flight tests, from Mojave Air & Space Port, California, leading toward commercial suborbital space flights.
- On August 3rd the announcement was made that the US Government has cleared the way for California-based Moon Express to send a spacecraft beyond Earth orbit, to land on the moon, in 2017. To date, no commercial company has conducted a mission beyond Earth orbit. This has long been solely the territory of government space programs.
While the licensing of SpaceShipTwo was an anticipated event, the authorization of the Moon Express flight to the lunar surface was hailed by the Space Foundation as a significant commercial space breakthrough. This breakthrough US policy decision provides authorization to Moon Express for a maiden flight of its robotic spacecraft to the Moon's surface—a step toward unlocking the immense potential of the Moon's valuable resources.
Although there is legislation under consideration to enable the private sector at large to engage in deep space missions, remaining compliant with international obligations under the 1967 Outer Space Treaty (OST) continues to present challenges for commercial operators. This situation has drastically improved with Moon Express receiving the green light from the US Government to travel beyond Earth's orbit and land on the Moon in 2017. Approval came only following in-depth consultations with the FAA, the White House, the State Department, NASA and other federal agencies.
“A major milestone has been achieved here for commercial space activities,” said Space Foundation Chief Executive Officer Elliot Pulham. “We applaud Moon Express and the Federal Government for this historic ruling to allow private enterprise to travel beyond Earth's orbit and more fully open a new era of commercial exploration and discovery. We are also delighted to see the doors opened for Virgin Galactic’s return to flight.” He added that space is a different kind of frontier now and providing policy guidance and regulatory control of emerging space players is an important national obligation under the Outer Space Treaty.