Private spaceflight companies have enjoyed very few limitations surrounding the testing and operation of their technologies. It’s all thanks to the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act, which was passed in 2004 to restrict the FAA from introducing any operational regulations on commercial spacecraft.
That means as of now, private companies really only need to obtain a testing permit, provide certain safety-related information, and adhere to a few other standards to get their vehicles off the ground. Well, it looks like the crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo on October 31 may change all that, meaning government regulations for private spaceflight may be on their way.
For now, the FAA is waiting on the results of the accident investigation before it makes any official regulatory changes. But the agency hinted at modifications to come in a recent statement to Bloomberg News:
However, we will look to utilize any and all available platforms to leverage lessons learned that will result in increased safety. We know that spaceflight is inherently risky and we expect that valuable lessons will be learned from these unfortunate events that will lead to increased safety and help this industry continue to evolve.