Space entrepreneurs that envision a flourishing public space travel market want to create an industry association to ensure that public treks into space are not only safe, but also help grow the personal spaceflight industry.
This new "Personal Spaceflight Federation" would help shape and uphold standards and processes. As a first action item, the group would set up a "Voluntary Personal Spaceflight Industry Consensus Standards Organization" -- an effort to establish Industry Consensus Standards to implement the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004.
That bill authorizes the Department of Transportation's (DOT) Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to grant permits to private spaceship operators to fly customers into space.
Passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in December 2004, the Act empowers the government to provide for the safety of the uninvolved public through launch licensing, as well as establish Industry Consensus Standards to provide for the safety of passengers and crew that travel on commercial spaceships.
Market studies focused on personal space travel have found a strong and consistent demand for commercial space travel - when such treks become publicly available.
Indeed, several new U.S. companies are developing the passenger-carrying spaceships to meet the expected demand for human suborbital travel. In addition, British airline mogul, Richard Branson, has created Virgin Galactic - a business venture to sell suborbital space rides on a fleet of private spaceships in just a few years.
General public belief that such flights are feasible was heightened last year by the repeated runs of SpaceShipOne in the Mojave, California desert. Those suborbital trips included back-to-back missions to the edge of space to snag the coveted $10 million Ansari X Prize.
The group of space entrepreneurs believe that adherence to new and rigorous safety standards that go beyond the letter of the law will be essential to promote the safety and growth of the industry. At the top of the federation's to do list is focusing on standards and procedures in areas critical to vehicle safety, medical requirements, and training for passengers and crew.
Short duration spaceflight
"Just as the personal computer revolution dramatically
and lowered the cost of computing, the market for Personal Spaceflight promises to transform the economics of space operations," said Gregg Maryniak, Executive Director of the X Prize Foundation in St. Louis, Missouri and spokesperson for the new Personal Spaceflight Federation.
"I believe that commercial suborbital flight is an arena in which the government has little experience. Most of the expertise resides in the private sector and I hope that the Department of Transportation/FAA will allow the industry to establish a set of proposed standards that can be voluntary submitted," explained Peter Diamandis, Chairman of the X Prize Foundation.
Diamandis told SPACE.com that the risk for the medical aspects of personal spaceflight must be transferred to the passenger and the spaceflight operator.
"I would be against a set of medical requirements which were overly strict. The reason we have focused on creating commercial suborbital flight is because it is a type of spaceflight that everyone who desires should be able to enjoy," Diamandis advised.
"Suborbital flight is short in duration making it relatively resistant to space motion sickness, allows for simplified robust life support systems, and relatively benign acceleration environments," Diamandis concluded.
The space entrepreneurs working to create the new federation already includes a virtual "who's who" of private rocketeers,
Membership includes: John Carmack, Armadillo Aerospace; Burt Rutan, Scaled Composites; Elon Musk, SpaceX; Alex Tai, Virgin Galactic; Jeff Greason, XCOR; Peter Diamandis, X Prize Foundation; Gary Hudson, t/Space/HMX; George French, Pioneer Rocketplane; Stuart Witt, Mojave Spaceport, Eric Anderson, Space Adventures, and Michael Kelly, Chairman of the Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) Working Group of the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC), established in 1984 within the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Membership in the proposed federation would be open to all U.S. non-profit and commercial entities developing suborbital commercial passenger travel, according to a Federation press release issued today.