U.S., France team up to research viability, safety of commercial space flights

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Tuesday that it has signed a memo of cooperation with the French National Space Agency (CNES) to pursue research and development into commercial orbital launches.

This cooperative initiative would facilitate research into the possibility of private-sector launches into outer space.

"This nonbinding arrangement spells out our intentions to cooperate in research and development activities on the safety of commercial space launches and re-entries,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said. “The primary focus of this new partnership is to understand each other’s safety regulations and to evaluate safety techniques for the launch and/or re-entry of commercial space vehicles.”

The Office of Commercial Space Transportation within the FAA oversees safety measures and other protocols relating to the space transportation industry in the U.S.

The FAA, citing the U.S. suborbital space industry, said commercial space flights in the private sector may begin as early as 2016.

CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall and Huerta said this agreement likely will facilitate future arrangements between both countries in the area of space-travel regulation.

“This memorandum of cooperation will enhance domestically and internationally the quality, objectivity and utility of methods designed to ensure the protection of public health and safety related to commercial space transportation,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said.

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