Commercial astronaut
Patti-presenting-wings-web.jpg
Patti Grace Smith, presents SpaceShipOne pilot Mike Melvill the department's first commercial astronaut wings.
Occupation
Occupation type
Profession
Description
CompetenciesSee astronaut training
Fields of
employment
Space exploration
Related jobs
Astronaut

A commercial astronaut is a person who has commanded, piloted, or served as an active crew member of a privately funded spacecraft. This is distinct from an otherwise non-government astronaut, for example Charlie Walker, who flies while representing a non-government corporation but with funding or training or both coming from government sources.

Criteria

The definition of "astronaut" and the criteria for determining who has achieved human spaceflight vary. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale defines spaceflight as any flight over 100 kilometers (62 mi) of altitude. In the United States, professional, military, and commercial astronauts who travel above an altitude of 50 miles (80 km) are eligible to be awarded astronaut wings. Until 2003, professional space travelers were sponsored and trained exclusively by governments, whether by the military or by civilian space agencies. However, with the first sub-orbital flight by the privately funded Scaled Composites Tier One program in 2004, the commercial astronaut category was created.[1] The next commercial program to achieve sub-orbital flight was Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo program in 2018.[2] Criteria for commercial astronaut status in other countries have yet to be made public.

By 2021, with the substantial increase in commercial spaceflight—with the first suborbital passenger flight by both Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo and Blue Origin's New Shepard in July, and with SpaceX's first orbital private spaceflight completed on September 18th 2021—the roles and functions of people going to space are expanding. Criteria for the broader designation "astronaut" has become open to interpretation. Even in the US alone, the "FAA, U.S. military and NASA all have different definitions of what it means to be designated as an 'astronaut' and none of them fit perfectly with the way Blue Origin or Virgin Galactic are doing business."[3] It is even possible that by the FAA commercial astronaut definition, one company's July flight participants may receive FAA commercial astronaut wings while the other will not.[3] SpaceNews reported that "Blue Origin awarded their version of astronaut wings" to the four participants of the first Blue Origin passenger flight but was unclear on whether these included the FAA astronaut designation.[4]

FAA Commercial Astronaut rating

With the advent of private commercial space flight ventures in the U.S., the FAA has been faced with the task of developing a certification process for the pilots of commercial spacecraft. The Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984 established the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation and required companies to obtain a launch license for vehicles, but at the time crewed commercial flight – and the licensing of crewmembers – was not considered. The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act has led to the issuance of draft guidelines by the FAA in February 2005 for the administration of vehicle and crew certifications.[5][6] Currently, the FAA has not issued formal regulatory guidance for the issuance of a Commercial Astronaut Certificate, but as an interim measure, has established the practice of awarding "Commercial Astronaut Wings" to commercial pilots who have demonstrated the requisite proficiency. The content of 14 CFR Part 460 implies that an instrument rating and second-class medical certificate issued within the 12 months prior to the proposed qualifying flight will be included as a minimum standard.

The FAA's Commercial Astronaut Wings Program is designed to recognize flight crewmembers who further the FAA's mission to promote the safety of vehicles designed to carry humans. Astronaut Wings are given to flight crew who have demonstrated a safe flight to and return from space on an FAA/AST licensed mission. To be eligible for FAA Commercial Space Astronaut Wings, commercial launch crewmembers must meet the following criteria:

Astronaut Wings

The emblem for the first set of FAA Commercial Astronaut Wings issued in 2004 has in its center a green globe on a blue background, with the three-prong astronaut symbol superimposed on top. In yellow block text around the globe are the words "Commercial Space Transportation" in all capital letters. In a gold ring outside the blue are the words "Department of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration" in black. Beginning with the wings awarded for flights in 2018, the design has been simplified to be the astronaut symbol, surrounded by the words "Commercial Space Transportation", all in gold on a black background. In December 2021, the FAA reconsidered the Commercial Astronaut Wings program as commercial space travel increased, and decided to end the program in January 2022.[8] Despite this, the FAA will still continue to recognize future commercial astronauts and will maintain a list of commercial astronauts who have flown to an altitude of 50 miles or higher.[9][10]

Years awarded Country Commercial Astronaut Wings
2004 US
US - FAA Astronaut Wings.png
2018 – 2021 US
US - FAA Astronaut Wings version 2.png

List of commercial astronauts

Beginning in January 2022,[11] the FAA start to maintain a list of individuals who have received FAA human spaceflight recognition. As of July 2022, there are the names of 45 individuals on that list that qualify for FAA human spaceflight recognition, but only 30 individuals on that list received FAA Commercial Space Astronaut Wings.[12]

# Name Vehicle Company Awarding Body Qualification Date Max Altitude Notes
1 Mike Melvill[13] SpaceShipOne Scaled Composites FAA 21 June 2004 100 kilometers (62 mi) First set of Commercial Astronaut wings; flight 15P
2 Brian Binnie[13] SpaceShipOne Scaled Composites FAA 31 October 2014 flight 17P
3 Michael Alsbury[14][15] SpaceShipTwo Enterprise Scaled Composites FAA 31 October 2014 Honorary; awarded posthumously; flight PF04
4 Peter Siebold[14][15] SpaceShipTwo Enterprise Scaled Composites FAA 31 October 2014 Honorary; flight PF04
5 Mark Stucky[13] SpaceShipTwo Unity Virgin Galactic FAA 13 December 2018 83 kilometers (52 mi) flight VP-03
6 CJ Sturckow[13] SpaceShipTwo Unity Virgin Galactic FAA 13 December 2018 83 kilometers (52 mi) First to hold both NASA (STS-88) and Commercial Astronaut (flight VP-03) wings
7 David Mackay[16] SpaceShipTwo Unity Virgin Galactic FAA 22 February 2019 90 kilometers (56 mi) First person born in Scotland to enter space; flight VF-01
8 Michael Masucci[16] SpaceShipTwo Unity Virgin Galactic FAA 22 February 2019 90 kilometers (56 mi) flight VF-01
9 Beth Moses[16] SpaceShipTwo Unity Virgin Galactic FAA 22 February 2019 90 kilometers (56 mi) First passenger, first woman (Chief Astronaut Instructor and Interiors Program Manager); flight VF-01
10 Richard Branson[14] SpaceShipTwo Unity Virgin Galactic FAA 11 July 2021 86 kilometers (53 mi) Founder of Virgin Galactic; Unity 22
11 Colin Bennett SpaceShipTwo Unity Virgin Galactic FAA 11 July 2021 86 kilometers (53 mi) Unity 22
12 Sirisha Bandla SpaceShipTwo Unity Virgin Galactic FAA 11 July 2021 86 kilometers (53 mi) Unity 22
13 Mark Bezos New Shepard Blue Origin FAA 20 July 2021 107 kilometers (66 mi) NS-16
14 Jeff Bezos[14] New Shepard Blue Origin FAA 20 July 2021 107 kilometers (66 mi) Founder of Blue Origin; NS-16
15 Wally Funk New Shepard Blue Origin FAA 20 July 2021 107 kilometers (66 mi) Member of the Mercury 13; NS-16
16 Oliver Daemen New Shepard Blue Origin FAA 20 July 2021 107 kilometers (66 mi) Currently the youngest person to have flown in space; NS-16
17 Jared Isaacman[14] Crew Dragon SpaceX FAA 16 September 2021 585 kilometers (364 mi) Shift4 Payments CEO; Inspiration4
18 Sian Proctor Crew Dragon SpaceX FAA 16 September 2021 585 kilometers (364 mi) Inspiration4
19 Hayley Arceneaux Crew Dragon SpaceX FAA 16 September 2021 585 kilometers (364 mi) Inspiration4
20 Christopher Sembroski Crew Dragon SpaceX FAA 16 September 2021 585 kilometers (364 mi) Inspiration4
21 Audrey Powers[14] New Shepard Blue Origin FAA 13 October 2021 107 kilometers (66 mi) NS-18
22 William Shatner New Shepard Blue Origin FAA 13 October 2021 107 kilometers (66 mi) Actor, currently the oldest person to have flown in space; NS-18
23 Chris Boshuizen New Shepard Blue Origin FAA 13 October 2021 107 kilometers (66 mi) NS-18
24 Glen de Vries New Shepard Blue Origin FAA 13 October 2021 107 kilometers (66 mi) NS-18
25 Laura Shepard Churchley[14] New Shepard Blue Origin FAA 11 December 2021 107 kilometers (66 mi) Daughter of the first U.S. astronaut, Alan Shepard; NS-19
26 Michael Strahan[14] New Shepard Blue Origin FAA 11 December 2021 107 kilometers (66 mi) NS-19
27 Evan Dick[14] New Shepard Blue Origin FAA 11 December 2021 107 kilometers (66 mi) NS-19
28 Dylan Taylor[14] New Shepard Blue Origin FAA 11 December 2021 107 kilometers (66 mi) NS-19
29 Cameron Bess[14] New Shepard Blue Origin FAA 11 December 2021 107 kilometers (66 mi) First parent-child spaceflight, with Lane Bess; NS-19
30 Lane Bess[14] New Shepard Blue Origin FAA 11 December 2021 107 kilometers (66 mi) First parent-child spaceflight, with Cameron Bess; NS-19

See also

References

  1. ^ "SpaceShipOne". National Air and Space Museum. 2016-03-20. Archived from the original on 5 July 2016. Retrieved 2019-06-12.
  2. ^ Sheetz, Michael (2018-12-13). "Virgin Galactic flies its first astronauts to the edge of space, taking one step closer to space tourism". CNBC. Retrieved 2022-02-06.
  3. ^ a b Kramer, Miriam (20 July 2021). "New wrinkle for space tourism: Deciding who counts as an astronaut". Axios. Retrieved 21 July 2021.
  4. ^ Foust, Jeff (20 July 2021). "New Shepard astronauts rave about suborbital spaceflight experience as Bezos faces backlash". SpaceNews. Retrieved 21 July 2021.
  5. ^ Commercial Space Flight - New Legislation and the Industry and Developments which Impact Commercial Airports, FAA NW Mountain Region 2005-04-05, accessed 2007-02-20[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "IAC-13-E6.4.5 – Industry Standards for Commercial Space Transportation" (PDF).
  7. ^ "FAA Commercial Space Astronaut Wings Program" (PDF). FAA. Retrieved 2021-07-22.
  8. ^ "First on CNN: The US gives Bezos, Branson and Shatner their astronaut wings". CNN. 10 December 2021. Retrieved 11 December 2021.
  9. ^ FAA: No more commercial astronaut wings, too many launching Phys.org
  10. ^ FAA to no longer award commercial astronaut wings Orlando Sentinel
  11. ^ "FAA Commercial Human Spaceflight Recognition". Federal Aviation Administration. Archived from the original on 2022-01-06.
  12. ^ "FAA Commercial Human Spaceflight Recognition". Federal Aviation Administration. Archived from the original on 2022-07-03.
  13. ^ a b c d "Press Release – Statement of FAA Assistant Administrator Bailey Edwards on the Successful Virgin Galactic Flight". www.faa.gov. Archived from the original on 13 December 2018. Retrieved 2021-07-25.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "FAA Commercial Human Spaceflight Recognition". www.faa.gov. Archived from the original on 2021-12-10. Retrieved 3 January 2022.
  15. ^ a b Foust, Jeff (2021-12-10). "FAA to end commercial astronaut wings program". SpaceNews. Retrieved 2022-01-03.
  16. ^ a b c "Three Virgin Galactic Crew Presented with Commercial Astronaut Wings at 35th National Space Symposium".