Has the flight been delayed? Blame the spaceship.

You can usually blame a few ordinary suspects for delaying an airline flight, such as bad weather, mechanical problems, or running on asphalt. But with the rise of the commercial space industry, there is now an amazing new source of air travel disruption: rocket launches.

There have been flights to and from Florida in recent weeks There has been a sharp increase in delays. Palm Beach International Airport registered more than 100 delays or cancellations only on April 15. (Some of them can be attributed to growth Private և charter flightsThings are getting worse at Jacksonville International Airport about 9,000 flight delays in March. Federal regulators last week met discuss these disruptions, which reflect the many current challenges facing the aviation industry, including hurricanes; increase in the price of aircraft fuelis: Covid-19 pandemicև a: Lack of airline employees. But the growing number of space launches in Florida, especially in Cape Canaveral, also complicates flight schedules.

“They close a significant area of ​​air on the east coast before, during and after launch. That journey must go somewhere, ”John Tiliakos, Tampa International Airport’s Executive Vice President for Finance and Procurement, told Recode. “It’s like putting 10 pounds of potatoes in a five-pound bag, so you put more weight on the already limited air space on the west coast of Florida.”

While these delays are now concentrated in Florida, the problem could get much worse, especially as the number of space flights increases, as new launch pads or spacecraft open in other parts of the country. The situation is a sign that The arrival of the second cosmic age can have an unexpected and even extremely uncomfortable effect on everyday life.

The problem of spaceships is relatively simple. Air traffic controllers are currently forced to land flights or change course at launch. To penetrate the atmosphere հաս to reach space, the rockets must first pass through airspace controlled by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which oversees them. Air Traffic Control Centers արկ Flight navigation across the country. Although these missiles usually spend only a few minutes in this airspace, they can create debris as spent pieces from a rocket hardware:, either because they are designed to unload their cargo in several stages, or because the mission has failed. Reusable amplifiers used by some spacecraft, for example SpaceX Falcon 9:re-enter this airspace as well.

To ensure that aircraft are not hit by these debris, the FAA typically suspends flights through a rectangular sky block that can stretch from 40 to several hundred miles, depending on the type of launch. There is usually about two weeks notice before each departure, during which time air traffic controllers may work out alternative arrangements for scheduled flights. Before launch, aviation officials track the car into space, then wait for experts to analyze the trajectory of the debris created in real time. If there are debris, the air traffic controllers stop until it lands again on Earth, which usually takes 30-50 minutes. When that happens, regular flights can return to their normal flight paths.

One space launch can disrupt hundreds of flights. For example, the launch of SpaceX Falcon Heavy in 2018, the same flight that launched the infamous shot Elon Musk Tesla Roadster is spaceaffected 563 flightscreated Total 4645 minute delaysև The planes were forced to fly extra 34,841 nautical miles, according to FAA data. This extra mileage increases rapidly, especially when you consider the extra fuel: carbon emissions. Researchers at the Embry-Riddle Aviation University in Florida, Daytona Beach, estimate that a single space launch could be just as expensive for airlines. as an additional $ 200,000 in fuel by 2027և Up to $ 300,000 in additional fuel over the next decade.

The FAA says it is making improvements. Last year the agency started using a new tool. Space data integrator, which more directly shares spacecraft data during launches և allows the agency to reopen airspace more quickly. The FAA also says it has successfully reduced the release time of the airspace from about four to just over two hours. In some cases, the agency managed to reduce that time to just 30 minutes.

“The ultimate goal of the FAA is to reduce delays, route deviations, fuel burns, emissions from commercial airlines, and other users of the national airspace system as the frequency of commercial space operations increases,” the agency said in a statement.


And the frequency of launches is increasing. It was 54 licensed space launches controlled by the FAA last year, but the agency thinks That number could rise in 2022 due to the growth of space tourism, growing demand for Internet satellites, and upcoming space exploration missions. These launches may also become more common in other parts of the country as new spacecraft often occur. built on or: near existing airports, expand actions. The FAA has already patented it more than a dozen different space stations In the United States, including Spaceport America New Mexico:where Virgin Galactic: launched its first flight last summer, as well as the Colorado Air and Space Port, which is the site of space transportation only six miles From Denver International Airport.

The role of the FAA in the development of the commercial space industry is becoming increasingly complex. In addition to certification, licensing FAA responsibilities include: impact on the environment on space travel և control of new spacecraft. The agency will eventually have to monitor: space safety as well. This applies to all other new types of flying vehicles to which the FAA should also pay attention, such as drones and flying air taxis. supersonic planesև even possible space balloons.

“Where do things dispute? How do all these machines fit into the system for which the FAA is responsible? ” Ian Petchenik, who oversees communications for Flightradar24, an aircraft flight tracking service, told Recode: “Everything will be much more complicated, ունենալ having a way to find out who has priority, how much space is needed, և what are the security boundaries, I think, is a much bigger long-term issue.”

While we are still in the early stages of the commercial space industry, some have already expressed concern that the agency is not moving in the right direction. The Airline Pilots Association warned back in 2019 that the FAA approach could to become: Calls for Extremely Expensive Space Assistance to Continue during space launches. At least one member of Congress, Peter De Fazio, is already concerned that the FAA prioritizes commercial spaceflight over traditional air travel, which serves significantly more people.

Apart from air travel delays, the growing business of space travel has already affected everything. real TV that we can watch and the types of work we can get to: international politics և – due to potentially huge carbon footprint of industry – the threat of climate change. It now looks like the commercial space industry could also influence the timing of your next trip to Disney World.

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