As Commercial Spaceflight Takes Off, the Aviation Industry Gets Protective of Airspace

For decades, airplanes and rockets have shared the skies in peace — but recently, satellite launches have started to irk the aviation industry. Whenever a rocket soars to space, it must pass through the airspace that thousands of pilots fly through every day, sometimes causing planes to reroute to avoid a spacecraft zooming into the sky. Now, the aviation industry wants to make some changes, ones that commercial space advocates say could fundamentally change the launch industry.

The cadence of orbital launches has grown in recent years, which means the airspace is being closed more frequently for spaceflight, causing more pilots to divert from their pre-approved routes and take less efficient paths to their destinations. And with the advent of reusable rockets, pilots now have to make way for spaceflight reentries, too — when a rocket comes back from space after launch and lands on the ground. Experts from both industries are trying to figure out how to coexist without too much disruption. But they’re at odds on how to move forward.

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