Besos Branson dressed too casually for space? Security experts call for stronger regulation


Tencent technology news on August 14, billionaires traveling in space in recent weeks are very fashionable. Jeff Bezos, founder of blue origin, wore a cowboy hat after landing, while Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic, wore blue sexy jumpsuit. But for top space travel safety experts, their biggest concern is that neither company has equipped astronauts with pressurized suits for passengers on the spacecraft to protect them from the rapid decompression outside the earth’s atmosphere.
NASA and space agencies in other countries require such pressurized suits because they have learned hard won lessons from fatal accidents, but such standards do not apply to companies competing to commercialize space, including space tourism companies. The United States Congress has exempted such enterprises in the United States from any federal safety supervision of crew members. Tommaso sgobba, a former official of the European Space Agency and executive director of the International Association for the promotion of space security, said: “the reality is that when you enter space, you should not wear beautiful clothes, but appropriate clothes.”
The success of two privately funded manned space launches in July has brought great encouragement to the U.S. commercial launch industry. Supporters claim that the lack of rules and regulations is a key part of promoting rapid innovation and should continue. Mike Mosse, President of Virgin Galactic in charge of space mission and safety, told lawmakers at a hearing earlier this year that the industry “is still in its early stage and needs more time for informed discussion on what regulatory framework should be in the future to support manned spaceflight”.
But sgoba and others say it is time to end government restrictions on the regulation of well-known high-risk enterprises. After all, rockets are actually like alternative giant bombs. Facts have proved that they are difficult to control with high reliability, and there is almost no room for error in the harsh space environment.
According to space industry consultant George nield, since the early 1960s, the United States has conducted 379 manned space flights, four of which ended in fatal accidents. This means that the probability of failure is about 1%. Nafield led the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) office responsible for commercial launch for 10 years until he retired in 2018.
The FAA is responsible for reviewing the launch application to ensure that the accident will not harm the public on the ground or in the flight path of the spacecraft. As part of this, the agency has reviewed the reliability of rockets and spacecraft, but the U.S. Congress has banned the agency from making any provisions to protect passengers. Virgin Galactic and blue origin did not respond to requests for comment.
The suspension of Security Oversight began in 2004 and was driven by millions of dollars of lobbying and extended until at least 2023. Sgoba, nard and others say the suspension has exceeded its original purpose. More importantly, they fear that any space disaster could paralyze the booming industry for years. “I think it’s time to update our regulatory framework for manned spaceflight,” nard said
Sgoba, nard and several other major government and private industry officials drafted a proposal two years ago calling for the establishment of a quasi government agency to set minimum safety standards based on decades of experience in space travel. Lawmakers have not hesitated to extend the security ban in the past. The industry has strong allies in Congress, but some people call for change. Peter DeFazio, democratic representative of Oregon and chairman of the house transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said: “with the rise of space tourism, I don’t think we should tie down the hands and feet of the safety supervision agencies.”
However, commercial space companies insist that their so-called “learning period” is crucial for rapid expansion and should continue to be extended. They said that the company followed a wide range of safety measures and that too strict regulation would hinder innovation. “If all aircraft are regulated in the same way, it basically limits the design characteristics of these aircraft,” said Karina drees, President of the American Commercial Aerospace Federation The organization’s members include blue origin, Virgin Galactic and dozens of other space companies.
Congressional oversight
The American Commercial Aerospace Federation says these companies have begun to develop their own minimum voluntary safety standards. According to opensecrets, these companies and industry organizations representing them have spent $9.78 million on lobbying since 2011.
During the flight on July 20, the ship of blue origin company carried an 18-year-old Dutch youth. His father paid an undisclosed amount to the company at the auction. Virgin Galactic announced that it had raised the price of its brief attempt at space edge flight to $450000. Elon Musk’s space exploration technology company SpaceX is planning its own manned commercial project.
For decades, only NASA and the military have supervised space launches. In 1984, the U.S. government established an office to review business operations, initially under the Department of transportation and later in cooperation with the FAA. The FAA has published “recommended practices” for companies to follow safety measures. The agency also requires all participants to sign a waiver before the flight, indicating that they understand the risks of space flight and have not been certified by the government.
In recent years, the commercial launch industry has increased exponentially. By May this year, the FAA had supervised 400 space launches. Although there was only one launch in 2011, there were a record 39 launches in 2020. This year, the agency is breaking this record, and now there are 37 launches. Most of them are used to expand satellite networks and send other objects into space, which pose the least risk to mankind. But commercial flights carrying passengers are preparing to take a leap.
Space shuttle disaster

In addition to blue origin and virgin galaxy, SpaceX’s manned dragon spacecraft also sent NASA astronauts to the international space station. The company also sold seats to billionaire Jared Isaacman. The first pure commercial manned launch will be carried out as soon as September 15.
Axiom space of Texas has signed a contract with SpaceX to carry civilians into space as soon as January next year, followed by other flights. Boeing and Sierra Nevada are also developing spacecraft that can be used to rent people.
Admittedly, the recent rocket launch has made great technological achievements, but the long-term safety record is still thought-provoking. The two deadliest accidents occurred on the US space shuttle, killing 14 people in 135 missions.
On October 31, 2014, a commercial flight accident occurred during the test flight of Virgin Galactic VSS unity spacecraft. When the spacecraft was accelerating, a test pilot accidentally triggered a switch to activate a device for deceleration and stability during descent, causing the spacecraft to disintegrate.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is responsible for investigating civil space accidents, found that the company that built the spacecraft at that time had a large number of security vulnerabilities. NTSB said that the designers did not expect the most basic human errors to occur.
Design Tips
Branson said such investigations made his company “safer and better” and Virgin Galactic took over the construction of the spacecraft. Drees, President of the American Commercial Aerospace Federation, said that the industry had “responded immediately and comprehensively” to the NTSB’s proposal.
Sgoba, executive director of the International Association for the promotion of space security, said that because there are no safety standards and private companies mostly design spacecraft in a confidential manner, it is difficult to know what protection measures exist. He pointed out that there was no booster suit in the recent launch, which is the only sign of the practice they are following. NASA, the Russian space agency and the European Space Agency all require astronauts to wear pressurized suits during dangerous flight phases to prevent the spacecraft from losing air pressure. In 1971, when the Soyuz 11 spacecraft lost pressure, three Russian crew members were killed.
Sgoba pointed out that designers have designed multi-layer protective measures to prevent such accidents, but the consequences of failure are so terrible that experienced space operators believe that these pressurized suits are of great significance during launch and re-entry. SpaceX and Boeing are launching NASA astronauts. They must comply with NASA’s extensive safety standards. Both companies are using pressurized suits.
Nard said the company may prove that it is reasonable to fly without pressurized clothing. He said that using them requires extensive training and may even bring greater risks to tourists. He said that the key is that these companies should follow the basic safety measures learned from more than 60 years of human space travel. This includes measures such as strict security review, independent audit and sharing of security lessons. “Waiting to die and hoping things go well may not be a reasonable strategy in the long run,” nald said. Let’s figure out how to do this so that the industry can ensure safety and success. “( Tencent Technology (reviser / Jinlu)
Outsourcing services
However, it is not easy to develop pressurized spacesuits. In the past few years, NASA has invested $500 million in such projects. In the review report, NASA’s inspector general pointed out that if the plan is not significantly adjusted, the new spacesuit will take at least four years to produce, which will endanger NASA’s plan to return to the moon by 2024.
Just a few years ago, there might not have been a viable way to speed up such a timetable. However, due to the vigorous development of the U.S. commercial aerospace industry, NASA now has more options than traditional contractors who have long relied on internal space hardware. Over time, the agency should turn to ambitious American entrepreneurs to complete the work and get the moon mission back on track.
The spacesuit project has encountered similar problems. The original idea of Congress was that NASA would act as the chief designer and integrator, and the Contractor would be responsible for the production of parts. In fact, providing work to contractors seems to be key to a large extent. Now 27 companies are involved in the development of NASA spacesuits.
Fortunately, a better approach has emerged in recent years. Instead of paying contractors to build NASA’s ultimately owned equipment, the government can pay them for services while allowing them to retain hardware. The idea is that competitive enterprises pursue both honor and profit. They will innovate and help reduce costs. For example, the construction cost of SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is only 10% of what NASA may spend using traditional contracting methods.
Such savings open up many new opportunities in space. But they also put pressure on legislators to abandon traditional thinking. Last month, NASA chose the SpaceX Falcon heavy rocket to launch Europa clipper, one of the most important scientific missions in a decade. A few years ago, Congress called for SLS launch. However, technical difficulties, coupled with the estimated cost of more than $2 billion per launch, make this scheme unsustainable. Instead, SpaceX rockets are used, which is expected to save about $1.5 billion.
This value for money approach is difficult to ignore, even for the government. In April, NASA announced that it was seeking to buy space suits from commercial partners. The industry responded enthusiastically, and more than 50 companies expressed interest. In July this year, the agency took the next step and published a draft request for proposals for the commercial bidding process( Tencent Technology (reviser / Jinlu)