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Author Topic:   FAA Commercial Astronaut Wings recipients
Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 41430
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 02-06-2019 12:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
On Thursday (Feb. 7), the Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will present Commercial Astronaut Wings to test pilots Mark "Forger" Stucky and Frederick "CJ" Sturckow for their Dec. 13, 2018 "historic and successful flight into space" aboard Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo.

Stucky and Sturckow are the third and fourth pilots to be awarded the FAA-issued wings, joining previous recipients Mike Melvill and Brian Binnie for their 2004 flights on Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne.

Thursday's ceremony at 2:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. EST can be watched live:

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 41430
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 02-07-2019 02:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
collectSPACE
Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo pilots awarded FAA astronaut wings

The United States now has two new Commercial Astronauts.

Virgin Galactic test pilots Mark "Forger" Stucky and Frederick "CJ" Sturckow were awarded Commercial Astronaut Wings by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Thursday (Feb. 7). The two were recognized during a ceremony held at the Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C., for their Dec. 13, 2018 flight aboard Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo "VSS Unity," which was the first time that the vehicle had flown into space.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
Member

Posts: 3414
From: Toms River, NJ
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 02-07-2019 09:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I guess I should have asked either the FAA or DOT representatives there: Why the change in design of the astronaut wings?

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 41430
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 04-09-2019 12:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Virgin Galactic release
Three Virgin Galactic Crew Presented with Commercial Astronaut Wings at 35th National Space Symposium

The three-person crew from Virgin Galactic's second spaceflight have received Commercial Astronaut Wings from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Chief Pilot, Dave Mackay, Lead Pilot trainer, Mike 'Sooch' Masucci and Chief Astronaut Instructor, Beth Moses, were presented their wings at the 35th National Space Symposium, where it was also announced that Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company (TSC) are to be presented the Space Achievement Award later this week.

The crew became the 5th, 6th and 7th people in history to receive this honor, and Beth the first woman to earn Commercial Astronaut Wings.

The wings were presented by the FAA'S Associate Administrator for the Office of Commercial Space Transportation, Wayne R. Monteith who declared: "Commercial human spaceflight is now a reality. These wings are just a small recognition for the truly remarkable achievement by these crew members to reach outer space. It shows we are well on the way into this new and exciting chapter of space travel."

The February 22nd test flight completed Virgin Galactic's second spaceflight in 10 weeks and saw the crew rocket into space at more than three times the speed of sound. As the spaceship coasted to apogee, Beth, who became the first woman to fly to space on a commercial spaceship, floated free to complete a number of cabin validation checks. Beth said: "It was an honor to receive my Commercial Astronaut Wings today. Since the flight we have been assessing the findings from my cabin evaluations; I'm excited by what the results are showing and looking forward to incorporating what we learnt into our cabin outfitting and astronaut training program."

Richard Branson sent a message of congratulations to the crew: "Seeing Dave, Mike and Beth receive their Commercial Astronaut Wings is a proud moment for all of us at Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company. Our pilots executed a perfect flight and it was wonderful to have Beth float free to conduct our first live cabin evaluation. The flight was another historic moment as we continue towards our mission of becoming the world's first commercial spaceline."

328KF
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Posts: 1206
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Registered: Apr 2008

posted 04-09-2019 05:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I imagine mine wasn't the only eyebrow raised when I saw Beth Moses being awarded the astronaut wings today. It seemed a bit inappropriate that the FAA would be in a position to present/award/rate a non-licensed person with anything. So, after some research and a conversation with Robert, I've come up with this:

First, this is not an issue about altitude, or about tourists. That's been covered elsewhere, including in a great article by Eric Berger, in which Robert himself is quoted.

My issue was with what it is the FAA is actually issuing to the crews. Turns out, it's not very obvious. Previously, as was the case with SpaceShipOne, the assumption was that "crew" were, by definition, FAA-licensed pilots.

The FAA definition of "crew" or "flight crew" is "a pilot, flight engineer, or flight navigator assigned to duty in an aircraft during flight time." That clearly means that to be considered "crew," one had to be licensed by the FAA as any of the above, with the appropriate medical certificate.

Aircraft manufacturers and operators routinely fly with engineers and FAA-licensed mechanics aboard test flights during certification or maintenance. Some of these flights can get "sporty," to say the least. When they return, they are not eligible for any FAA recognition or rating, so one might wonder what the difference here is, if any.

Under the latest FAA regulations related to commercial spaceflight, they have chosen to define "crew" as:

Any employee or independent contractor to a licensee, transferee, or permittee... who performs activities in the course of that employment or contract directly relating to the launch, reentry, or other operation of or in a launch vehicle or reentry vehicle that carries human beings. A crew consists of a flight crew and any remote operator.
Among many other requirements, a pilot or remote operator must "possess and carry an FAA pilot certificate with an instrument rating." Also, "Each crew member with a safety-critical role must possess and carry an FAA second-class airman medical certificate issued... no more than 12 months prior to the month of launch and reentry."

So, unlike any other aspect of commercial aviation, the FAA has decided to define "crew" as practically anybody employed by the operator, who is performing some undefined task. The medical requirement is also nebulous because the rule does not define what a "safety-critical role" is.

So what exactly are "astronaut wings"? At the present time, the FAA does not have a "commercial astronaut" certificate or rating. I believe there was some misunderstanding about this based upon early reporting done around the time of the SS1 flights. So, in what is termed an "interim measure," the agency has issued these wings.

The FAA says the initiative "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," and, "to be eligible for Astronaut Wings, nominees must meet the following criteria and submit an application to the FAA:

  • Be an FAA licensed launch

  • Meet the requirements for flight crew qualifications and training under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, part 460 (quoted above)

  • Demonstrate flight beyond 50 statute miles above the surface of the Earth as flight crew on an FAA licensed or permitted launch or reentry vehicle.
So, with this loose definition of "crew" it would seem that the FAA has written a rule that would even allow Sir Richard Branson (as an employee of Virgin Galactic) to be eligible for these "astronaut wings" after his upcoming flight!

Yet another undefined term is what exactly a "safe flight to and return from space" consists of. That would imply that "crew" that either wrecks or has to bail out after achieving 50 miles would not be eligible?

So it seems that, at present, these wings are little more than a recognition/public relations device than they are the issuance any rating, certificate, or title to any participant in a spaceflight. The "astronaut" title, as I mentioned before, is a sticky subject, with a wide variety of opinions from professional astronauts, private spaceflight participants, and even the payload specialists who orbited Earth aboard the shuttle. As I found writing "Come Fly With Us," many of the PSs shy away from referring to themselves by the title.

In my opinion, aside from the title itself, I think the FAA has done a disservice by applying a different standard (in how they define "crew") here than anywhere else in aviation.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 41430
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 04-09-2019 06:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
FAA Commercial Astronaut Wings are in the same category as NASA gold astronaut pins and the U.S. military's astronaut wings — they are all awards or honors. And yes, they are all public relations tools, too; a way to remind the public that the issuing entity has a role in putting people into space.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
Member

Posts: 3414
From: Toms River, NJ
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 04-10-2019 07:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by 328KF:
As I found writing "Come Fly With Us," many of the PSs shy away from referring to themselves by the title.

I realize this is splitting hairs, but my definition of an astronaut is someone taking a primary role in either the craft or mission. Therefore, one piloting a craft in whatever your definition of space is would make one an astronaut.

I have little issue with PSs like Charlie Walker or the Spacelab PSs calling themselves astronauts. They have taken an active, primary role in the mission - Walker with the McD experiment(s) and the Spacelab PSs, that's the very reason for their mission.

Again, splitting hairs, but I don't believe Moses in the five minutes or so of weightlessness, would qualify to be called an astronaut, despite her evaluating the cabin during that time. Nor do I believe the PSs, who flew as a favor / thank you / babysat a satellite deployment would qualify to be called astronauts either, despite them taking part in secondary objectives.

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