Thursday, May 14, 2015

Senators Introduce U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, left, and, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., talk, via a live downlink, to NASA Astronaut Tom Marshburn onboard the International Space Station (ISS) during a NASA briefing with the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Tuesday, May 7, 2013, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee Chairman Ted Cruz (R-Texas) released the following statement regarding S. 1297, the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, that he filed with U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) that extends the International Space Station (ISS) until 2024, extends the regulatory moratorium through FY 2020, and ensures stability for the continued development and growth of the U.S. commercial space sector, among other initiatives. “We are making a commitment to supporting the continued development of a strong commercial space sector with this bill," said Sen. Cruz. "The U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act provides the International Space Station nearly a decade of certainty by authorizing operations through 2024 and encourages dynamic private sector growth by giving industry the time it needs to foster and develop new technology."

“We need to make it less cumbersome to launch from Florida's Space Coast so private companies won't take their business elsewhere,” said Sen. Nelson. “We need the jobs that come with commercial space ventures.”

“A robust commercial space industry helps advance NASA’s human exploration and research priorities in space,” said Sen. Peters, Ranking Member on the Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee. “This legislation will support continued development of the commercial space industry in Michigan and the United States, which will help promote important research, create new jobs and grow our economy.”

“To achieve a new American Century, we need to reduce costly regulations that hinder American innovation and private sector growth,” Rubio said. “By improving suborbital vehicle requirements and easing insurance regulations without sacrificing safety, this legislation will encourage innovation and space exploration that will push Americans further into space than ever before.”

“Encouraging the development of Colorado’s space industry is one of my top priorities in the Senate,” said Sen. Gardner. “I’m proud to work on this legislation with my fellow Commerce Committee members, and I was glad to work with Colorado companies to ensure that this is the best bill possible to encourage the growth of the American space sector.”

Building upon the Commercial Space Launch Act that was first passed by Congress and signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, the bipartisan U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act reflects the needs of a changing and growing industry and aims to encourage the competitiveness of the U.S. commercial space industry. This bill provides for the following, among other provisions:

Extending the Operation and Utilization of the International Space Station

Provides a four-year extension of the ISS into 2024 by directing the NASA Administrator to take all necessary steps to ensure the ISS remains a viable and productive facility capable of utilization including for scientific research and commercial applications.

Ensures Stability for the Continued Development and Growth of the Commercial Space Sector

Provides a five-year extension of the regulatory learning period through 2020 so that the commercial space sector can continue to mature and innovate, experiment and indicate readiness before the Department of Transportation transitions to a regulatory approach. The current learning period expires on September 30, 2015.

Extending the Federal Indemnification of Commercial Launches Until 2020

Extends a key risk sharing provision in current law critical to keeping a level playing field in the global market for U.S. commercial space enterprises.

Defines “Government Astronaut”

Establishes “Government Astronaut” as a separate class of passengers from crew and space flight participants for government employees transporting to space on commercial vehicles to reflect advances in commercial space providers’ role in NASA crewed launches planned within the window of the bill. 

Identifies Appropriate Oversight for the Commercial Development of Space

Asks the Office of Science and Technology Policy, in consultation with the Secretary of State, NASA and other relevant Federal agencies, to assess and recommend approaches for oversight of commercial non-governmental activities conducted in space that would prioritize safety, utilize existing authorities, minimize burdens, promote the U.S. commercial space sector, and meet U.S. obligations under international treaties.

Consolidates FAA Launch Licensure

Two different offices at FAA are currently involved in the licensing and permitting process for hybrid rocket systems that use a carrier aircraft (non-launch) to carry the suborbital vehicle (for launch) to a certain altitude where it will be released. This bill asks for a report to Congress on approaches for streamlining the process for licenses and permits for such innovative launch vehicles.

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