Sources: Virgin Galactic, SpaceX via GAO report.

Sources: Virgin Galactic, SpaceX via GAO report.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a new report on commercial space: Industry Developments and FAA Challenges.

GAO has taken a look at the U.S. commercial space launch industry noting it has changed considerably since the enactment of the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004.

Space tourism

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is required to license or permit commercial space launches; however, to allow space tourism to develop, the act prohibited FAA from regulating crew and spaceflight participant safety before 2012 – a moratorium that was extended to 2023.GAO PHOTO 2

The U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, enacted in November 2015, addressed other aspects of the commercial space launch industry.

Licensing workload

GAO testimony and the new report summarizes and updates findings from GAO’s 2015 report, specifically industry developments and FAA challenges, including FAA’s launch licensing workload and budget.


For its 2015 report, GAO reviewed FAA’s guidance on its launch permit, licensing, and safety oversight activities; interviewed FAA officials, industry stakeholders, and experts who were selected on the basis of their knowledge of FAA’s oversight of the commercial space launch industry; and visited spaceports where two 2014 launch mishaps occurred.

Credit: GAO

Credit: GAO














To access GAO-16-765T, issued on June 22, go to:

Testimony on their report is available at:

Highlights of the review can be found at:

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