In a big blow to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson who were being called as “commercial astronauts" after they went to space, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has now tightened its definition of a commercial astronaut.
As per the new rules issued by the US agency to be eligible for FAA Commercial Space Astronaut Wings, commercial launch crewmembers must meet the requirements for flight crew qualifications and training under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 460, demonstrated flight beyond 50 statute miles above the surface of the Earth as flight crew on an FAA/AST licensed or permitted launch or reentry vehicle, and demonstrated activities during flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety.
The guidelines were updated on Tuesday by the FAA on its website along with the eligibility and other criteria for the Commercial Space Astronaut Wings program. The Federal Aviation Administration is the only US agency that gives astronaut wings to passengers on a commercial spacecraft since the NASA and US military calls only their employees as astronauts.
Bezos made a 10-minute-long trip to space on Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft on July 20 with his younger brother Mark, an 82-year-old female pilot, and a high school graduate, the company’s live broadcast showed.
While, Branson successfully flew to the edge of space aboard a Virgin Galactic flight from New Mexico with pilots David Mackay and Michael Masucci, Beth Moses, the company’s chief astronaut instructor, Virgin Galactic’s lead operations engineer, Colin Bennett, and Sirisha Bandla, a research operations and government affairs vice-president.