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HomeEditor’s PicksReport: Assessing the Readiness for Human Commercial Spaceflight Safety Regulations (RAND, 2023)

Report: Assessing the Readiness for Human Commercial Spaceflight Safety Regulations (RAND, 2023)

Source: RAND


At the request of Congress, RAND researchers assessed the progress that the commercial industry has made in adopting voluntary safety , the industry's progress in meeting key industry metrics set out by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2017, and whether the industry has reached a level of maturity such that certain areas identified in previous Federal Aviation Administration reports are ready for regulatory action.

Research Questions

  • What is the progress of the commercial in adopting voluntary industry consensus standards for participant safety?
  • What is the progress of the industry toward meeting key metrics that would indicate readiness for regulation?
  • Are areas identified in previous reports to Congress now appropriate for regulatory action, or should those areas see further development of voluntary consensus standards without regulatory actions?

Key Findings

Standards development organizations (SDOs) have developed voluntary standards related to commercial spaceflight that could affect participant safety, but significant work remains

  • Some stakeholders expressed concern that the process is moving too slowly.
  • Several challenges are limiting the development of consensus standards, but the process of building consensus standards remains valuable, particularlv because it provides a forum for collaboration and for industry members to provide inbut and feedback.
  • Although no single set of consensus standards for participant safety has been adopted across the industry, commercial spaceflight companies have their own sets of safety practices that might (or might not) incorporate SDO standards.
  • Directly assessing the safety practices of individual companies was not possible because much of this information is treated as proprietary.

Many of the current key metrics that support voluntary consensus safety standards do not have characteristics that would allow assessment of industry progress toward meeting those standards

  • The data and information related to many key metrics are unique to the individual companies and are deemed by the companies to be proprietary or otherwise not publicly releasable.
  • Interviewees could not identify unambiguous criteria based on metrics that would signal readiness to end the moratorium and transition to a framework that might include regulations.
  • Most interviewees did not believe that a binary view of whether regulations were appropriate was the right approach; rather, they believed that some aspects of industry operations might be ready for some forms of regulations while others might not be.


  • Allow the moratorium to end as per current law.
  • Resource the appropriatelv for the development of appropriate regulations.
  • Proceed with Space Aerospace Rulemaking Committees.
  • Continue voluntary consensus standards and key metric development.
  • Consider limited informal rulemaking.


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