Launching stuff into space is hard enough: you really don't need to be fighting through gigantic piles of red tape while doing so. NASA and the FAA have just decided to team up to coordinate standards for commercial space travel, making it easier (and safer) for private companies to make it to orbit.
The commercial space industry is shaping up to be a hybrid between air travel and space travel, especially once you start factoring companies like Virgin Galactic and Stratolaunch into the mix. Historically, the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation (there is one!) has taken care of regulations and licenses and permits and stuff, but since neither of the "A"s in "FAA" stands for "astronautics," the agency is not really intended to manage things like mission assurance and crew safety. On the other hand, this is what NASA is all about.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed yesterday between the FAA and NASA lays out (and neatly separates) the responsibilities of each agency, making it far easier for companies to efficiently jump through the necessary pre-launch hoops. For example, all space launches and reentries will require a license or experimental permit from the FAA. When it comes to space flight health and safety, mission engineering, and systems compatibility, NASA will take the lead. This MOU is really the FAA and NASA saying "we're going to figure out how to make this work" as opposed to laying down a whole new set of rules, but we're glad to see the government stepping in to make things easier and less complicated on the necessary but evil bureaucratic ends of things. For once.
Via Network World