FAA opens airspace during space launches, cutting flight delays to Tampa Bay, Sarasota

Before/After of new airspace "clamshell" during space launches // FAA.gov


Passengers flying from the northeast into Tampa, Sarasota, and other Central Florida airports no longer see delays due to a space launch. The Federal Aviation Administration has reduced airspace restrictions.

Before, there was an area of airspace near the Kennedy Space Center that was closed during space launches.

But in April, the clamshell-shaped area was cut majorly, allowing for more free airspace during launches. Duane Freer is the Air Traffic Organization’s Space Operations Manager.

“We worked with Space Launch Delta 45 on drawing or developing a half clamshell, something that would allow us to leave open some of the critical routes to the Central Florida aviation market”

They worked with the U.S. Space Force to determine that the prior air space restrictions were too large.

According to the FAA, up to 36 flights to Tampa and other Central Florida airports had to be re-routed. This created up to 300 minutes of delay for as many as 4,300 passengers. But this reduction in closed airspace gets rid of those delays.

And for people worried about flying during a launch?

“I’d say they have a spotless record of protection, the FAA is very proud of the safety record of the launch and re-entry process, and it’s very safe, it’s very well thought out, very analyzed.”

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