This week, the Federal Aviation Administration opened a new office in Houston that is designed to help the agency monitor nearby private space companies, including SpaceX and Blue Origin. The facility will help the agency monitor activities conducted by private space companies in and near Texas, the FAA explained, joining the new tracking system it announced last month.
Texas is home to facilities belonging to both SpaceX and Blue Origin, while the competitor Virgin Galactic is located nearby in New Mexico. The FAA mentioned all three companies in its announcement this week, explaining that its Houston safety field office will be used as an “oversight” center for private space operations that take place in both states.
The commercial space industry has exploded over recent years, with companies like SpaceX conducting regular launches to transport ISS cargo and deploy payloads. This change in the industry has spurred the FAA to make some big changes in order to effectively monitor the companies’ activities.
In June, the FAA announced the activation of its Space Data Integrator system designed to track rocket launches and reentry using near-real-time data. The system is intended to help the FAA monitor and streamline its management of the national airspace as it relates to rocket launches and reentries.
In a statement about the new safety field office, FAA Associate Administrator of Commercial Space Transportation Wayne Monteith said:
Keeping the public safe as the pace of commercial space operations increases requires the FAA to adapt, be agile, and remain vigilant. The Houston field office will help us achieve these important goals.