For the purpose of the question, let's assume said launch vehicle is 100% identical to Electron. What sort of tests/certifications would I have to send the rocket through in order to make it legal to launch payloads into orbit?

Let's say I want to send a payload using the rocket to a deep space destination, would that require more legal hurtles/certifications?

And how would one start selling "seats" on the rocket for payloads?

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    $\begingroup$ I imagine this will vary from country to country, as the primary hurdle is making use of national air space. $\endgroup$ – SE - stop firing the good guys Oct 29 '20 at 14:48
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    $\begingroup$ Think north korea. $\endgroup$ – user3528438 Oct 30 '20 at 11:57

I was wondering the same thing, after digging a little bit I found this FAA page:

What qualifies as a commercial launch?

What is a commercial launch? The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) defines a commercial launch as having one or more of the following characteristics:

The launch is licensed by FAA. The primary payload's launch contract was open to international competition. The launch was privately financed without government support. Commercial launch vehicles are manufactured and marketed by private companies.

FAA's launch regulations require a license or a permit for all commercial launches taking place within U.S. borders as well as for launches being conducted abroad by U.S. entities. In general, FAA does not license launches by U.S. government organizations. In addition, certain classes of small rockets are exempt from licensing requirements.


As far as getting a launch license, the process is quite long and complicated. Link: https://www.faa.gov/space/streamlined_licensing_process/licensing_process/

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/98/hr3942/text This, about the Commercial space launch act (U.S.), details many laws and regulations.

I believe there are a lot more restrictions for commercial use than for private use, and as far as launching deep space objects, I don't couldn't find anything about that, but you should keep digging. I hope this answers your questions

  • $\begingroup$ Looks great, thank you for the edits! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Oct 30 '20 at 11:01
  • $\begingroup$ I think it boils down to protecting the public on the ground in the potential flight path and in the vicinity of the launch site. Also protecting the passengers. For space launches passengers will also need to sign some form of informed consent waver. $\endgroup$ – Slarty Oct 31 '20 at 12:31

Here's a brief list of licenses that we often see clients requiring when putting satellites into orbit:

  • FAA license for the launch;
  • FCC license to communicate with the satellite;
  • NOAA license if you have an imaging payload; and
  • ITAR or EAR license if you're sharing data with foreign persons.

Here's a link to NASA's CubeSat 101 document, which gives a brief overview of the FCC and NOAA licenses. I'll try to post a more comprehensive explanation soon.


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