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The FAA withdraws its program for astronauts as commercial space travel increases

The Federal Aviation Administration will suspend its Commercial Space Astronaut Wings program as the number of human spaceflights is expected to increase dramatically in the coming years.


The Commercial Space Astronaut Wings program, created in 2004 by Patti Grace Smith, former Assistant Administrator at the FAA̵[ads1]7;s Office of Commercial Space Transport, is designed to recognize pilots and flight crews who have promoted the agency’s mission to promote the development of human space vehicles. . Smith died in 2016 at the age of 68 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

“With three commercial space companies now licensed by the FAA to fly space participants, and companies performing operations, her vision is largely fulfilled,” the agency said.

Instead of issuing the wings, the agency will recognize individuals who reach space on its website from 2022. Any person who is on an FAA licensed or licensed launch and reaches 50 statutes miles above the earth’s surface will be listed on the site.


On Friday, the FAA announced that it would award astronauts to 15 people who qualified through private space travel in 2021. In addition, the agency awards honorary astronauts to Michael Alsbury and Peter Siebold, two Scaled Composite test pilots involved in the 2014 crash of Virgin Galactics first SpaceShipTwo spacecraft. Alsbury was killed in the crash. Siebold was injured but survived.

The latest awards bring the total number of people who have received the award under the program to 24, including:

Pictured here by Blue Origin, from left to right: Mark Bezos, brother of Jeff Bezos; Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin; Oliver Daemen from the Netherlands; and Wally Funk, aviation pioneer from Texas. (Blue Origin via AP)

  • Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson and the crew of Unity 22, which launched on July 11. Pilots David Mackay and Michael Masucci and chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses previously earned the wings during the company’s VF-01 mission in 2019.

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson poses with the crew of the spacecraft Unity 22 (Virgin Galactic)

This undated image made available by Blue Origin in October 2021 shows from left Chris Boshuizen, William Shatner, Audrey Powers and Glen de Vries. (Blue Origin via AP) (AP Newsroom)

  • SpaceX Inspiration 4 crew members Jared Isaacman, Haylely Arceneaux, Dr. Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski, who flew into space on 15 September.
Inspiration4 will be launched on September 15 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, SpaceX said in a press release on Friday.

Inspiration4’s civilian crew consists of mission specialist Chris Sembroski, far left, mission pilot Dr. Sian Proctor, mission chief Jared Isaacman and medical officer Hayley Arceneaux. (SpaceX / Inspiration 4)

Scaled Composites test pilot Michael Melville, who flew SpaceShipOne during Virgin Galactic’s Flight 15FP and Flight 16FP missions in 2004, was the first to receive astronauts through the program. The other was Scaled Composites test pilot Brian Binnie, who flew SpaceShipOne during the company’s Flight 17P mission in 2004.


Blue Origin plans to launch its third human spaceflight with six crew members on Saturday morning, who will also be eligible to receive commercial astronauts.

“Good Morning America” ​​co-stars Michael Strahan and Laura Shepard Churchley, the eldest daughter of astronaut Alan Shepard, will fly as guests of honor. Voyager Space Holding CEO Dylan Taylor, investor Evan Dick, Bess Ventures founder Lane Bess and his son Cameron will join the flight as paying customers. The company has previously said it plans to launch “more” crew flights in 2022.

Blue Origin NS-19 crew (Credit: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin NS-19 crew (Blue Origin)

Virgin Galactic will conduct two more occupied test flights, Unity 23 and Unity 24, before commencing commercial spaceflights. Virginia’s first commercial spaceflight, Unity 25, is expected to launch in the fourth quarter of 2022. In November, the company said it sold about 100 seats for its future commercial spaceflight at $ 450,000 apiece, bringing the total number of reservations to 700.

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Meanwhile, SpaceX’s is scheduled to launch NASA’s Crew-4 mission in April 2022 and Crew-5 mission in the fall of 2022 at the earliest. In addition, NASA has announced its intention to acquire three more commercial crews, with the first launch beginning so early as 2023.

SpaceX also hopes to launch the first unmanned orbital test flight of its Starship vehicle in January, subject to the completion of the Federal Aviation Administration’s environmental review of the spacecraft’s orbital launch site in Boca Chica, Texas, by the end of 2021. Starship will be used to transport humans to the moon, Mars and beyond.

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