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News Release


Release No: 474-97
September 11, 1997


The under secretary of Defense for acquisition and technology, the NASA Administrator and the FAA Administrator have signed a joint memorandum of agreement (MOA) that provides guidance for federal interaction with commercial launch site operators.

The primary objective of the MOA is to facilitate and encourage access by the private sector and state and local governments to excess federal launch property and services for use. This joint agreement brings to fruition many months of concerted effort by the members of the Interagency Working Group on Spaceports, which was initiated at the request of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The Department's representative to the working group, and its co-chairman, was Gil I. Klinger, acting deputy under secretary of Defense for space.

The MOA explains the respective roles and responsibilities of federal agencies in general, and specifically those of the DoD, NASA and FAA, with regard to their interactions with launch site operators. These agencies will seek to maintain continued efficient operation of established commercial sector space activities using federal launch bases and ranges. They also intend to minimize the regulatory burden on the U.S. commercial space sector by clearly delineating federal agency requirements and oversight responsibilities, thereby minimizing overlap and duplication.

Launch site operators may include state government agencies, state-chartered entities, state-sponsored entities, and commercial entities. "Spaceport" is a popular term used to describe entities involved in launch-site-related activities. The guidance applies to current and prospective FAA-licensed launch site operators on, or outside, federal installations. It does not apply to operation of a launch site performed as part of a federal space activity carried out by, or exclusively for, the federal government.

Operation of a launch site consists of operation and maintenance of launch property, which must include at least one launch pad. The operation of a launch site may also include operation and maintenance of launch systems and facilities built for or used in the preparation or launch of a launch vehicle, on or outside a federal installation, provided it is owned or controlled by the launch site operator. This guidance may also include operation and maintenance of the following launch systems and facilities:

  • Processing facilities with associated test and checkout equipment,
  • Range systems and facilities,
  • Storage facilities, or
  • Launch infrastructure].

The MOA gives federal guidance in the following areas:

  • Environmental and safety compliance,
  • Licensing of launch site operators,
  • Financial responsibility and allocation of risk requirements applicable to activities

conducted on a federal installation,

  • Federal agency pricing for launch property and services,
  • Foreign involvement in operation of a launch site,
  • State government-related launch site operators, and
  • Real property.

Existing assignments of real property are not affected by this agreement. DoD, FAA and NASA plan to use this agreement as a basis for written implementing procedures to carry out their respective responsibilities in interacting with launch site operators.

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