Commercial astronaut

Patricia G. Smith, Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation at the FAA, presents SpaceShipOne pilot Michael Melvill the department's first commercial astronaut wings
FAA Commercial Astronaut Wings

A commercial astronaut is a person trained to command, pilot, or serve as a crew member of a privately funded spacecraft.



The criteria for determining who has achieved human spaceflight vary. The FAI defines spaceflight as any flight over 100 kilometres (62 mi) of altitude. In the United States, professional, military, and commercial astronauts who travel above an altitude of 80 kilometres (50 mi) are eligible to purchase astronaut wings. Until 2003, professional space travelers were sponsored and trained exclusively by governments, either by the military or by civilian space agencies. However, with the first sub-orbital flight of the privately-funded Scaled Composites Tier One in 2004, the commercial astronaut category was created.

FAA Commercial Astronaut rating

With the advent of private commercial space flight ventures in the U.S., the FAA has been faced with the task of developing a certification process for the pilots of commercial spacecraft. The Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984 established the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation and required companies to obtain a launch license for vehicles, but at the time manned commercial flight - and the licensing of crewmembers - was not considered. The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act has led to the issuance of draft guidelines by the FAA in February 2005 for the administration of vehicle and crew certifications.[1] Currently, the FAA has not issued formal regulatory guidance for the issuance of a Commercial Astronaut Certificate, but as an interim measure, has established the practice of awarding "Commercial Astronaut Wings" to commercial pilots who have demonstrated the requisite proficiency.

Commercial Astronauts

Two Commercial Astronaut awards have been made. They are SpaceShipOne pilots Mike Melvill and Brian Binnie.[2]

See also


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