Senate Confirms Mike Whitaker as FAA Administrator

Image: NASA

The FAA finally has a permanent leader after an 18-month vacancy. 

The Senate voted 98-0 to approve the nomination of former FAA deputy Mike Whitaker to serve a five-year term as head of the agency, which has a hand in overseeing the commercial space industry.

Space responsibilities: The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation is responsible for multiple facets of the commercial space mission including:

  • Issuing launch and re-entry licenses to make sure the public is safe from commercial operations
  • Helping air and space operators share the airspace
  • Setting and implementing spaceport policy

Top to-dos: Whitaker is taking over during an important time for the agency as it figures out how to juggle its massive commercial air travel mission alongside its growing commercial space responsibilities. Some major focus areas for the agency include:

  • Congress passing a new FAA reauthorization before the current authorization expires on Dec. 31.
  • The potential expiration of the “learning period” for the commercial spaceflight industry (currently set for Jan. 1), which has prevented the agency from imposing many regulations on the industry since 2004
  • Even if the learning period is extended, space tourism companies told Congress last week that it’s time to start a transition period with the FAA to prepare for more regulation in the future.

SpaceX also slammed the FAA at the hearing for the delayed approval for Starship to fly again, and urged the agency to double its licensing staff to keep pace with rapid commercial space growth. 

Related Stories

Lawmakers Keep the Lights On Until Early 2024

While a shutdown seemed increasingly likely only a week ago, lawmakers have passed another last minute agreement to keep the government open, at least for now. The details: The Senate overwhelmingly approved a stopgap funding bill late Wednesday night, just one day after the House passed the same proposal on Tuesday.  Funding the government under […]


House Space Bill Stalled Until Post-Thanksgiving

Hours after the White House released its plan for regulating novel commercial space activities, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee considered its own proposal—and to the surprise of no one, the plans look pretty different.


White House Releases Spectrum Strategy

The Biden administration released a National Spectrum Strategy on Monday to ensure that both federal operators and private companies can have adequate access to the finite resource.


Bulgaria to Join Artemis Accords

Bulgaria will become the 32nd nation to join the Artemis Accords during a signing ceremony on Thursday in DC, NASA announced yesterday. NASA chief Bill Nelson, Bulgarian officials, and representatives from the US State Department will participate in the ceremony at NASA HQ.  Accords 101: The US rolled out the Artemis Accords in October 2020 […]