Stanford researchers tapped to help make rules for commercial space travel

August 19, 2010 BY ADAM GORLICK

( -- Before business skyrockets to space, the FAA has to make sure it's safe to get there.

Space may be the final frontier, but it's going to get more crowded pretty soon. And Stanford researchers are working to make sure the new pioneers can get there safely and easily.

Commercial communication satellites and government-backed space missions have been under way for decades. But private companies like Virgin Galactic are on the verge of putting ordinary people into space as tourists. And with NASA's space shuttle program being phased out, it's likely that privately owned craft will ferry astronauts to the .

"When you start having launches not once every few months or once a month but maybe once a day, you have to figure out how to control the nation's airspace," said Scott Hubbard, a consulting professor of aeronautics and astronautics.

"You have to figure out what it means to take regular citizens into space," he said. "You've got to figure out how to take existing launch vehicles and prove they're safe for humans to use. The FAA has the responsibility to regulate all this, but they don't have the research background to say what are good policies."

That's where Stanford comes in. The on Wednesday tapped the university and seven other schools to play a role in the newly created Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation, which will help make the rules regulating .

"We're experts in air traffic management and control for airplanes," said Hubbard, who is working on the FAA project with Stanford aeronautics and astronautics colleague Associate Professor Juan Alonso. "We plan to apply this expertise to the whole question of space traffic control. We need to figure out what kinds of systems will be necessary to tell flight controllers how to keep the space rockets out of the way of the flight from San Francisco to Washington."

Along with the aerospace experts who will develop policies for space launches, traffic management and human space flight, Stanford researchers at the Graduate School of Business will have a hand in examining and forecasting what business opportunities exist in space travel and exploration.

"This emerging new commercial area could be a business of many billions of dollars a year," Hubbard said.

Explore further: Private space launch to be announced

Related Stories

Private space launch to be announced

September 6, 2005

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson reportedly is ready to announce the first in a series of launches from his state's new Southwest Regional Spaceport.

Space commercialization contract signed

February 1, 2007

NASA says it has signed a space commercialization contract with PlanetSpace Inc. of Chicago and the Transformational Space Corp. of Reston, Va.

Space safety meeting held in Chicago

May 14, 2007

The European Space Agency and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration are co-sponsoring an international space safety conference in Chicago.

NASA gets ready for another space mission

March 31, 2008

Now that the latest space shuttle Endeavour mission is completed, the U.S. space agency said it's preparing for the May launch of space shuttle Discovery.

Recommended for you

What are white holes?

October 9, 2015

Black holes are created when stars die catastrophically in a supernova. So what in the universe is a white hole?

A mission to a metal world—The Psyche mission

October 9, 2015

In their drive to set exploration goals for the future, NASA's Discovery Program put out the call for proposals for their thirteenth Discovery mission in February 2014. After reviewing the 27 initial proposals, a panel of ...

Image: Pluto's blue sky

October 9, 2015

Pluto's haze layer shows its blue color in this picture taken by the New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The high-altitude haze is thought to be similar in nature to that seen at Saturn's moon ...

How to prepare for Mars? NASA consults Navy sub force

October 5, 2015

As NASA contemplates a manned voyage to Mars and the effects missions deeper into space could have on astronauts, it's tapping research from another outfit with experience sending people to the deep: the U.S. Navy submarine ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.