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Why Regulations & Permitting Knowledge Is Key to Commercial Space Success

By Josh Saltsman, PE

October 5, 2020

Why regulations and permitting knowledge is key to commercial space launch site success.

Want to get your launch vehicle off the ground on time and on (or even under) budget? One key to your project’s success will be access to knowledge of the many lessons learned that come with the site permitting and regulatory process.

Choosing a design team that understands the bigger picture and the important details of the permitting process is incredibly important to your bottom line – and to realizing your vision.

Below are a few reasons why this knowledge is key to your success:


Knowledge prevents you from wasting time

Here’s an obvious but important truth: You can’t break ground before you get all your necessary permits. The faster you get permits approved, the faster construction can begin.

Permitting takes time even when the process goes smoothly. If you need to submit permit applications multiple times, the time lost adds up quickly. Each incomplete or deficient permit application can often set you back at least another 30-day review period.

You need a team that understands and appreciates the complexity of your project and knows how to navigate the permitting process.

Tip for Success: If your team checks in with permitting agencies a week or two before the deadline for approval, the agencies might let you know of an issue before the application review window is over. As a result, you can get the solution sent off during this window, preventing a request for additional information (RAI) that would slow the permitting process and project down.



Knowledge secures and maintains trust with key players

Trust is a currency, and just like money, you don’t want to lose it. The stakes in our market are high and so are the expectations of the officials reviewing permit applications and approving permits. When you submit a permit and have not followed the detailed rules, guidelines and regulations, you run the risk of lowering the trust of the permitting agencies.

That means on the next review, you’re probably going to get more questions and comments – because officials want to make sure you’re not making other mistakes. That creates more likelihood of a slower, more drawn-out review process.

Tip for Success: On larger projects, you can do a pre-submittal. For example, by sending off a pre-development hydrology and hydraulics (H&H) model as you’re working on the post-conditions H&H model, you can get early buy-in and set the stage for greater success. Early, upfront and continued communication is imperative.



Knowledge prevents costly mistakes

Remember when we talked about the bigger picture? Here’s where it comes into play.

You need a team that understands the concept of operations for your site and your program. Otherwise, you could be in for a permitting nightmare, especially if explosive siting hasn’t been thoroughly vetted or if the proposed development impacts environmentally sensitive areas or those with cultural or archeological resources present.

At the beginning of the project, your team works to determine the estimated development size needed to deliver on your vision. Having a group that understands all aspects of the aerospace industry and knows the right questions to ask improves the accuracy of these estimations.

What you don’t want to do is determine you’ll need 100 acres of developable land when you’ll really need 200 acres. That will cause a huge new permitting effort later that will set back your timeline.

Tip for Success: These guidelines are incredibly localized and complex – think multiple rules and 300-page applicant handbooks with sometimes vague language. You need a team that understands and appreciates the complexity and has experience interpreting and catering to the rules, so you don’t have to worry about costly delays.


Read how anticipation & innovation lead to success with your facility project >


Knowledge helps move your schedule to the left

This knowledge doesn’t just prevent wasting of time – it can also save time. It all boils down to a thorough understanding of design principles and practices and a working knowledge of the permitting process.

Once you know the rules, you’ll know what adds time, what increases cost, and what makes things run smoothly. You can also build relationships and trust with permitting agencies.

Tip for Success: Fast-tracking a civil site package helps you break ground quicker and gets the site ready for construction while the launch support facilities and/or ground support equipment are still being designed. Once the facility has been designed, construction can begin immediately.


Learn more about alternative delivery & how it can move your schedule to the left >

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Topics: Insights, Aerospace & Defense, Aerospace

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About the Author

Josh Saltsman, PE, is an RS&H vice president and office leader for the company’s Merritt Island office. He has experience across the aerospace industry, with particular focus in civil engineering and site development. He can be reached at josh.saltsman@rsandh.com.

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