Vehicle Operator Licenses

A vehicle operator license may authorize launch, reentry, or both.  The license covers pre- and post-flight operations as defined in 14 CFR 450. 

Part 450 covers launch operations that exceed 150 km in altitude, have a thrust in excess of 200,000 lb-sec or are launching a payload for hire. For more information on other operations that may not meet these parameters, please use our Commercial Space Transportation Assistance Tool.

Vehicle Operator Licenses

REGULATIONS (CFR Link) TITLE APPLICATION CHECKLIST (MS EXCEL)
14 CFR Part 413 License Application Procedures Part 413: License Application Procedures Checklist (MS Excel)
14 CFR Part 450 Launch and Reentry License Requirements (Vehicle Operator License - VOL Part 450: Pre-Application Consultation Checklist (PDF)
Part 450: Application Compliance Checklist (MS Excel)
14 CFR Part 440 Financial Responsibility Part 440: Financial Responsibility Checklist (MS Excel)
14 CFR Part 460 Human Spaceflight Requirements Part 460: Commercial Human Spaceflight Licensing Checklist (PDF)

Pre-Application Consultation Guidance Materials

For an overview of the authorization process including the pre-application process, see the Getting Started with Licensing page. Below are specific pre-application tools for Vehicle Operator License applications.

Accepted Means of Compliance

The Part 450 Means of Compliance Table (PDF) provides at least one accepted means of compliance for each performance based requirement in Part 450 Subpart C. This table also includes estimated issuance date for all planned Advisory Circulars.

Advisory Circulars

The FAA has developed Advisory Circulars to provide guidance on meeting the regulations. Part 450 focuses on approving methodologies to obtain a license. The table below contains all of the Part 450 Advisory Circulars. An estimated issuance date for all planned ACs can be found in the Part 450 Means of Compliance Table (PDF)

Part 450 Guidance Information
Part 450 Guidance Documents Issuance Date Workshop Slides Workshop Video
Advisory Circular: 450.101-1A High Consequence Event Protection 05/20/21 PDF Video
Advisory Circular: 450.103-1 Safety System Program 09/07/21 PDF Video
Advisory Circular: 450.107-1 Hazard Control Strategies 07/27/21 PDF  
Advisory Circular: 450.108-1 Flight Abort Rule Development 07/27/21 PDF Video
Advisory Circular: 450.109-1 Flight Hazard Analysis 08/05/21 PDF Video
Advisory Circular: 450.110-1 Physical Containment as a Hazard Control Strategy 09/27/22 PDF  
Advisory Circular: 450.115-1A High Fidelity Flight Safety Analysis 06/25/21 PDF Video
Advisory Circular: 450.117-1 Trajectory Analysis for Normal Flight 08/19/21 PDF Video
Advisory Circular: 450.123-1 Population Exposure Analysis 10/12/22 PDF  
Advisory Circular: 450.141-1A Computing Systems and Software 08/18/21 PDF  
Advisory Circular: 450.167-1 Tracking for Launch and Reentry Safety Analysis 09/29/22 PDF  
Advisory Circular: 450.173-1 Part 450 Mishap Plan – Reporting, Response, and Investigation Requirements 08/12/21 PDF Video
Advisory Circular: 450.179-1 Ground Safety 09/22/21 PDF Video
Advisory Circular: 450.3-1 Definition of Launch and Scope of a Vehicle Operator License 09/28/22 PDF  

The FAA seeks public comment on each of these documents for a period of 30 days when issued. FAA will issue an updated version if warranted based on comments received. Each guidance document contains a feedback form with instructions on how to provide feedback at any time during the process. *Feedback for ACs may also be submitted via the AC feedback form (PDF) and emailing the form to astapplications@faa.gov. Please include the AC number/title in the subject line.

Looking for additional or more specific resources? Search Resources.

Safety Reviews

The safety review is the principal component of vehicle operator license evaluations and becomes part of the licensing record on which the FAA bases licensing determinations. In general, the safety review consists of evaluating the applicant’s safety organization, system safety processes, and flight safety analysis, as well as quantitative risk criteria for launch, reentry, and vehicle disposal.

Policy Reviews and Approvals

The FAA reviews a license application to determine whether it presents any issues affecting U.S. national security or foreign policy interests, or international obligations of the United States. A major element of the policy review is the interagency review of the proposal. An interagency review allows government agencies to examine the proposed operation from their unique perspectives. 

The FAA consults with the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and other federal agencies such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration that are authorized to address national security, foreign policy, or international obligation issues. Procedures for completing the Policy Review are described in 14 CFR Part 450.41 for Vehicle Operator License.

For more information about export and International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) requirements, see the guidebook: U.S. Export Controls for the Commercial Space Industry

Payload Reviews

A Payload Review is normally performed as part of a launch or reentry authorization. However, an applicant may request a Payload Review and determination in advance of and separately from a launch or reentry authorization. For more information, please see the Payload Reviews page.

Environmental Reviews

The FAA analyzes the environmental impacts of proposed licensed and permitted actions, including the licensing of launch and reentry activities, the operation of launch and reentry sites, and the issuing of permits for suborbital reusable rockets. For more information, please see the Environmental page.

Financial Responsibilities

Financial responsibilities for permitted and licensed launch or reentry activities are described on the Financial Responsibilities page.

Part 450 Workshop

FAA hosted a virtual Part 450 Workshop on November 4-6, 2020. FAA's subject matter experts have reviewed each topic under Part 450 in chronological order. A crosswalk of mapping tools that compare the new rule to legacy regulations was also presented on Day 3.

Legacy Regulations

For operators currently licensed under Legacy Regulations (Part 415/417, Part 431, or Part 435) during the transition to Part 450 licensing, additional resources are available on the Legacy Regulations webpage.

Last updated: Tuesday, October 25, 2022