TSA in Space

The government is already thinking about security checks for space tourists.

According to the BBC:

It has recommended security checks similar to those for airline passengers.

The FAA also suggests space tourism companies check the global "no-fly" list, from the US's Homeland Security Department, to exclude potential terrorists.

Here's the FAA draft.

Posted on January 10, 2006 at 8:26 AM • 22 Comments

Comments

AleksJanuary 10, 2006 9:19 AM

I just gotta think the FAA has no jurisdiction in space. Ahh, but perhaps one day I will fulfill my dream of flipping them the bird from orbit.

Also, since HAL was the original space terrorist, I think we all know how Homeland Security should be profiling; depressive supercomputers instead of depressive skateboarders. :)

Ed T.January 10, 2006 9:26 AM

Several observations:

1) Has the TSA thought about how difficult it is to remove those space boots when going through a security check?

2) Sharp pointy objects are much more dangerous in space -- does this mean that TSA will be confiscating nail files and small scissors again?

3) Will queueing up for the 'loo be verboten?

4) Does the FAA intend to mandate crappy food on space flights, too?

As far as excluding terrs from space flight is concerned, IMNSHO let 'em all on the flight -- then send it on a 'course correction' straight into the Sun.

-T.

DannyJanuary 10, 2006 9:42 AM

Sure, terrorists are going to pay millions of dollars to blow up/hi-jack a spacecraft with

mpdJanuary 10, 2006 9:54 AM

It sounds logical for when space tourism is as available as cruises or trips to the moon ala Airplane II (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083530/). At the same time it seems a bit premature considering the current state of space tourism.

Jim HyslopJanuary 10, 2006 9:59 AM

"I just gotta think the FAA has no jurisdiction in space." Probably true, but if the spacecraft is launched within, or passes through, US air space on its way to orbit, then the FAA does have jurisdiction.

havvokJanuary 10, 2006 9:59 AM

I find this exceptionally amusing.

I can't wait until the first private space station is built, and the people living aboard announce their intentions to emancipate themselves from their nations of origin.

Fun Fun :)

Sealand in Space.....

Christoph ZurniedenJanuary 10, 2006 10:48 AM

Yes, we all know that "The moon is a harsh mistress" and may throw with stones,
but let me tell you: not much of the several hundred metric tons of the ISS
would reach ground concentrated enough to slay a man let alone a city and only a
city is sufficiently large to be hit by a thrown ISS.
What else can you do with a rocket? Let it explode? You will get the biggest
effect with a fully fueled rocket of course, but most of the starting areas are
placed right at the middle of nowhere. You have to fly a bit to reach a
worthwile target while consuming a lot of your blasting agent up to the point of
becoming the equivalent of a thrown rock.
And of course: the pricetag of the tickets for a little spacetrip will outnumber
any other way for a TV-compatible terror attack for a long time and a thing like
a hardened door will be cheaper than the whole bureaucracy needed to make the
rules and to force them an even longer time.

CZ

derfJanuary 10, 2006 11:24 AM

The idea of TSA agents standing around stumped while considering how to body cavity search a space alien is almost amusing. However, the number of human toddlers and old ladies going into space will likely be less than the TSA is used to harrassing.

Pat CahalanJanuary 10, 2006 11:48 AM

If a 747 fully loaded with fuel makes a good improvised explosive device, imagine what a scramjet capable of achieving low orbit could do.

On the other hand, this shouldn't be handled by passenger-level security, it should be a design requirement. There's no reason for the crew and passenger compartments in a spacecraft to even have the same boarding mechanism.

All of the current scaling problems (retrofitting existing planes and terminals) don't apply for an industry that doesn't exist yet. Hell, there's no reason for the cockpit to even share the same air supply.

Instead of worrying so much about who's getting on the space flight (economics alone is going to be a huge barrier to entry for terrorists, considering how much the tickets will cost), just eliminate passengers as an attack vector in the design.

ChrisJanuary 10, 2006 1:09 PM

So we're worried about terrorists hijacking the space plane and crashing it into something valuable back here on Earth?

Where exactly is the flight school these guys are going to attend to learn to do this? Sounds exactly like a cast of fighting the last war instead of planning for the next one.

jammitJanuary 10, 2006 2:30 PM

Everybody stand back. I have a Sub Etha signaling device and am not afraid to use it. It's funny to think we are worried about aliens crossing our borders and terrorists in space. I like the planning ahead part, but this is overkill. It's almost like someone on the top just knows for a fact that when spaceflights become popular there will still be a terrorist threat. Talk about job security.

gregJanuary 10, 2006 2:48 PM

when the rockets get big enough to take more than a few ppl, they will likely be automated. Like the space shuttle, or other ELV.

Computers are well known for there lack of cooperation with ppl in general and even less so with crazy ones.

but i'm really and sick of all this homeland security yada yada ....

I'm going to read a few crypto papers to get myself interested in security again. Its far more interesting.

Nobby NutsJanuary 10, 2006 3:29 PM

@Roy Owens: "I bet the air marshals will be easy to spot."

I hope they're not armed, with anything ballistic, though!

BodiJanuary 10, 2006 7:46 PM

How can the TSA have a "global no-fly list"?? If Air Mongolia dares to let one of the unfit-for-takeoff devils get aboard a plane, what kind of hissy fit could the TSA have... and how is the carrier forced to tell them?

RogerJanuary 10, 2006 8:43 PM

Sigh. Sometimes seems like this blog is turning into the peanut gallery. "Ooh, the TSA said something, let's all pull faces, later we might even read what they said".

Facts:
* space tourism is not science fiction, it is already occurring on a limited basis
* regularly scheduled space tourism flights at 1% of the current price are on schedule to start in 2008, with 100 tickets already sold and several thousand deposits paid
* the proposed price is far too steep for my pocketbook, but low enough to be within the financial means of hundreds of thousands rather than thousands of persons
So the FAA -- not the TSA -- thought it was a good idea to draft some proposed regulations for public comment.

And are those draft regulations hooting mad? Umm, lets see, they recommend that space tourists be fully informed of the considerable risks of spaceflight; participate in emergency training; and they should be advised but not required to get a medical checkup. Almost as a footnote, it is suggested they should pass the same security check as any other airline passenger.

None of that is obviously worthy of ridicule. You may well think that the security checks for airline travel are ineffective or unnecessary, and that would be a valid criticism. But if we take as a given that the TSA believes them necessary for regular passenger flights, there is no apparent reason they would be less necessary for space flights -- unless, perhaps, you think that rich folks should not be subjected to such indignity? Hmm, what do we always say about whitelisting? (As an aside, Martin Bryant could have afforded such a flight.)

The effectiveness of checks is likely to be improved by the fact that the number of passengers will be small, they will be booking a year or so in advance, and will be spending a week in training at the spaceport (at Truth or Consequences, New Mexico!) before boarding.

A secondary issue is whether the technical parameters of commercial spaceflight require special consideration. At present, the answer is probably "no". SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo are suborbital spacecraft with a ceiling of ~100 km and maximum speed of around Mach 3, but which spend most of the flight profile gliding. At their peak altitude and velocity they could not be intercepted by conventional military jets, but for most of the flight profile they are little different to conventional aircraft. This may change in the next generation of commercial passenger spacecraft, currently tentatively scheduled to come online around 2013, and proposed to be fully orbital vehicles.

Christoph ZurniedenJanuary 11, 2006 10:39 AM


Let me first apologize for my first post. I pasted the draft instead of the
final. I do not speak english nativly but that is no excuse for *that* mess,
sorry.

> And are those draft regulations hooting mad? Umm, lets see, they recommend that
> space tourists be fully informed of the considerable risks of spaceflight;
> participate in emergency training; and they should be advised but not required
> to get a medical checkup. Almost as a footnote, it is suggested they should
> pass the same security check as any other airline passenger.
>
> None of that is obviously worthy of ridicule.

Yes, it is not obvious, that is right, so let me walk thru your interjections.

* be fully informed of the considerable risks of spaceflight
There are a lot of different conditions leading to your personal death-in some
parts quite surreal but nevertheless lethal conditions. All of these may happen
within a very high probability at a spaceflight. I guess the FAA took that rule
straight out of the fine print of a life insurance contract.

* participate in emergency training
That is a good idea and I think the FAA is competent to work out all the details
when the relevant hardware had been build. You might call me a nitpicker but I
think it is a bit too early today.

* should be advised but not required to get a medical checkup
Sounds familiar to me ... uh, I see: the fine print of the life insurance
contract from above.

* Almost as a footnote, it is suggested they should pass the same security
check as any other airline passenger.
So: the only part handling "security" has been placed footnote like? By the FAA?
The FAA takes more care for emergency training, a sufficient number of emergency
doors and even insurance contracts than for *gasp* terrorists?

I just had to concur with Iuvenalis:"difficile est saturam non scribere"
(I,1,30) and because I remembered R. A. Heinleins novel too I wrote my first
post. I thought it would put the difference of real security (FAA) and
"security" (TSA) more straight.

CZ

RogerJanuary 12, 2006 2:26 AM

@Christoph Zurnieden
> Let me first apologize for my first post. I pasted the draft instead of the
> final. I do not speak english nativly but that is no excuse for *that* mess,
> sorry.

Oh, that's alright, your English is pretty good, and I had no difficulty understanding you. I would also agree that at least the current generation of commercial passenger spacecraft are not a threat from the "Moon is a Harsh Mistress" point of view. (The more futuristic TMiaHM scenario might make for an interesting technical analysis, but probably not here, at least not yet.) That doesn't mean that there are no threats at all, though. I could enumerate possible scenarios (just thought of 6 then), but as Bruce points out, that is a futile exercise. It is better to cover the general case and not "permit anyone to endanger the safety of the flight".

> > None of that is obviously worthy of ridicule.
>
> Yes, it is not obvious, that is right, so let me walk thru your interjections.

(Small aside, but I'm not sure what you meant by "interjection" here. Wenn Sie Deutsches sprechen, ist das deutsche Äquivalent "interjektion", mögen "ach". Possibly you meant "objections" = "Einwände", but I was really making any objections either.)

> * be fully informed of the considerable risks of spaceflight
> There are a lot of different conditions leading to your personal death-in some
> parts quite surreal but nevertheless lethal conditions. All of these may happen
> within a very high probability at a spaceflight. I guess the FAA took that rule
> straight out of the fine print of a life insurance contract.

I'm not sure what your objection is here. Are you saying that you don't believe that informed consent is sufficient? If so, what? Note, incidentally, that you pretty well can't get insurance for any aspect of space operations -- the insurers have already lost too much money on failed satellite launches. As such, the operators are certainly going to insist that passengers sign complete waivers. The government is basically saying that if they do that, the passengers must fully understand just how much risk they are accepting.

> * participate in emergency training
> That is a good idea and I think the FAA is competent to work out all the details
> when the relevant hardware had been build. You might call me a nitpicker but I
> think it is a bit too early today.

Much of the hardware _has_ been built, and -- at the rate government bodies work -- there isn't much time remaining before the rest is finished. Also, some sorts of hardware can't be built until the testing requirements are specified by the regulations. I really don't think you can claim they are starting too early.

> * should be advised but not required to get a medical checkup
> Sounds familiar to me ... uh, I see: the fine print of the life insurance
> contract from above.

Same comment as above. I take it that you want compulsory medical checkups instead? Fine.

> * Almost as a footnote, it is suggested they should pass the same security
> check as any other airline passenger.
> So: the only part handling "security" has been placed footnote like? By the FAA?
> The FAA takes more care for emergency training, a sufficient number of emergency
> doors and even insurance contracts than for *gasp* terrorists?

Umm. What is your point here? You seem to be saying that you agree with it, but in the most negative way possible.

> I just had to concur with Iuvenalis:"difficile est saturam non scribere" [...]

Uh, huh, but someone also said "sarcasm is the wit of fools". The comments you just made in this post are sensible criticism (or actually, agreement for the most part), and I have no objection to any of it, although I disagree on some minor points. Many of the comments others made in this thread are not "saturam" but "derisus".

Christoph ZurniedenJanuary 12, 2006 6:03 PM

> That doesn't mean that there are no threats at all, though.

Yes, there are threats of course and more than just half a dozen, but I could
not imagine one scenario especially for a spacecraft except of that thrown stone
thing. The rest is more or less related to air flight, so it is understandable
that the same rules should fit. More or less. The FAA saw that and acted
accordingly as far as I understood their papers. But I think the addition of
some of the passenger related security checks, especially the check against a
"global no-flight list" (compilated how?) might have had political reasons.

> It is better to cover the general case and not "permit anyone
to endanger the safety of the flight".

The security measures pre 9/11 were sufficient except of the one
rule:"Do what the hijackers want.". And a hardened cockpit door for only US$20
more perhaps.

> Are you saying that you don't believe that informed consent is sufficient?

No, I don't think so. I think it is not necessary at all, it should be
taken as common knowledge that the risks to die are very high if you fly some
hundred miles above the ground. (alliterations were not intentional)
There is no need to issue warnings like "Don't dry your poodle in the microwave
oven, it may die!".

> Note, incidentally, that you pretty well can't get insurance for any aspect
> of space operations

Oh yes, you still can, but the fee is so high (about half of the amount insured
and more) it won't pay anymore.

> The government is basically saying that if they do that, the
> passengers must fully understand just how much risk they are accepting.

These are the things you will find in the fine print of an insurance contract.
And it depends on the jurisdiction to, e.g. you can't waive all of your rights
in Germany.

> Much of the hardware _has_ been built,

For commercial passenger transport in space? Within the numbers of the civil
aviation, hundreds of millions a year? I don't think so.

But ...

> and -- at the rate government bodies
> work -- there isn't much time remaining before the rest is finished.

... that is also true, unfortunatly.

> Also, some sorts of hardware can't be built until the testing requirements are
> specified by the regulations.

And some regulations can not be specified until the hardware had been build and
I fear the intersection is not empty: there will be some trial&error involved.
You have to be able to evacuate all passengers of a plane in not more than 90
seconds (AFAIK) for example. Is that sufficient for a spacecraft too? You can't
know before trying.
It is to early for exact rules, but it isn't to early for the FAA to stake out
their claim as far as I know bureaucracy.

> Same comment as above. I take it that you want compulsory medical checkups
> instead? Fine.

I do not, but the insurance companies might want that. E.g. some aviation companies
do not transport highly pregnant women (different limits) without a medical
report.


> > So: the only part handling "security" has been placed footnote like? By the FAA?
> > The FAA takes more care for emergency training, a sufficient number of emergency
> > doors and even insurance contracts than for *gasp* terrorists?

> Umm. What is your point here? You seem to be saying that you agree with it, but
> in the most negative way possible.

As I said above, I think the additions had political reasons, that makes me
sarcastic sometimes.
Or:
Some people say I became a bit bitter since my 40th birthday three weeks ago,
they might be right?

> > I just had to concur with Iuvenalis:"difficile est saturam non scribere" [...]

> Uh, huh, but someone also said "sarcasm is the wit of fools".

So be it; I wear my motley with pride ;-)

CZ

PS: thanks a lot for helping me with my english!

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