Safety standards out of this world

SS2 flies supersonic for the first time Photo: Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo going supersonic for the first time in 2013. Photo: Virgin Galactic

The UN agency responsible for aviation safety has called for international standards for the safe integration of space transportation.

The President of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, called for member states and other stakeholders to work together in developing regulations and policies to support space transportation—a sector likely to grow rapidly in the near future.

‘The commercial space sector has made significant progress, and this year we will have the opportunity to begin addressing some important specifics,’ said Dr Aliu in his opening remarks at an aerospace symposium in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday 15 March.

‘ICAO recognises that sub-orbital and outer space flights will foster new tourism and transport markets and that investments in related research and development remain at a very healthy level,’ he said.

‘If we do not find a way to embrace the important changes that aerospace innovators are generating, national requirements will not be harmonised, technology will be over- or under-regulated, and there will be more operational and commercial uncertainties … this is exactly what needs to be avoided,’ he said.

Responding to the rapid rate of innovation, which has seen the concept of commercial spaceports become operational realities, ICAO is looking for existing regulations to be adapted with a performance-based approached.

‘We need to prepare ourselves for global international aerospace standards and regulations,’ Dr. Aliu added.

‘First and foremost these will need to be fully integrated with the many thousands we have adopted up until now in civil aviation.’

‘This is how we help to assure the safety and security of the skies we all need to share. In line with a wider evolution in ICAO in recent years, the standards to be developed are expected to be performance-based rather than prescriptive, so that they encourage rather than hinder innovation.’

Flight Safety Australia first examined space tourism regulation in May 2014, highlighting that many of the known risks of commercial space flights are not reflected in any current civil aviation type regulation.

The ICAO Symposium in Abu Dhabi this week is the second of its kind, and will build on work already achieved at the inaugural symposium from 2015, bringing together leading business, regulatory and academic figures from space and civil aviation fields.

More information can be found on ICAO’s website.


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