Science Committee Democrats Explore Future of Commercial Space Flight

Press Release From: Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democratic Caucus
Posted: Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The House Committee on Science's Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics today heard from a number of experts on the commercial space industry.  Research and development in this arena has led to launch vehicles and satellites that provide services from weather forecasting to home entertainment.

The future of the industry and the government role in that future was the focus of today's hearing.

"Members on both sides of the aisle have long agreed on the importance of a healthy and robust U.S. commercial space sector," stated Ranking Member Mark Udall (D-CO).  "Whether it involves launch services or remote sensing, the efforts of both America's established aerospace companies and its emerging entrepreneurial start-ups have much to contribute to the nation's economy and to our citizens' quality of life."

The Subcommittee heard testimony from commercial manned spaceflight pioneer Burt Rutan - designer of the world's first privately developed passenger-carrying spaceship.  Mr. Rutan testified that the future of personal space flight industry is bright but not without its challenges.

"We have spent considerable resources developing recommendations for specific regulatory processes to be applied to the new industry, but have not yet found interest within the FAA to consider them," stated Mr. Rutan.  "This problem must be solved to support an industry that needs a proper research test environment to allow innovation."

Since the early days of space exploration, the successes and setbacks of the commercial space industry have been followed closely by the Science Committee.  In recent years, there has been growing interest in the possibility of providing commercial human space flight services to an emerging "space tourism" market.

"We heard thoughtful testimony today on the role that the federal government might play in encouraging commercial space activities as well as the practical limitations of that involvement," added Rep. Udall.  "We also received some very constructive comments on the need to ensure that safety is properly addressed by both the companies and the government if the emerging commercial human space flight industry is to prosper."

"I intend to carefully consider all of the advice we have received today as we move forward to address commercial space issues in the coming months," concluded Rep. Udall.

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