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House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's Subcommittee on Space Discusses Commercial Space

Press Release From: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats
Posted: Wednesday, November 20, 2013

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(Washington, DC) - Today the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's Subcommittee on Space held a hearing to examine ways in which companies are utilizing federal support and government policies to grow their commercial space businesses; to address what government policies would be helpful to the U.S. commercial space industry; and to discuss H.R. 3038, the Suborbital and Orbital Advancement and Regulatory Streamlining (SOARS) Act.  Testifying before the Subcommittee were Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA); Ms. Patricia Cooper, President of the Satellite Industry Association; Mr. Stuart Witt, CEO and General Manager of Mojave Air and Space Port; and Mr. Dennis Tito, Chairman of the Inspiration Mars Foundation.

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) said in her opening statement, "As I have stated on many occasions, I see a strong link between the space program and the inspiration it provides to our younger generation through various STEM activities.  Commercial space is an important component of that inspiration and a key source of jobs and innovation."

She continued, "The commercial satellite industry has experienced strong and steady growth over several years.  I hope to hear what factors have contributed to such growth and how other commercial space ventures might learn from their success.  The audacious proposal from Mr. Tito and the entrepreneurial spirit overflowing at Mr. Witt's Mojave Spaceport demonstrate that America's yearning for deep space exploration and thirst for innovation are alive and well.   But maintaining such enthusiasm requires a well-oiled partnership between the federal government, states, private industry, and academia."

The conversation at the hearing was wide-ranging.   Members discussed the future of the U.S. space workforce, the importance of space in inspiring the next generation, and provision for government indemnification of third-party liability for commercial space launches.  Ranking Member of the Space Subcommittee, Donna F. Edwards (D-MD), emphasized the role of government in commercial space activities and commercial space launches.  In her statement for the record she said, "Over 80 percent of NASA's entire budget is and has been paid to commercial entities for products and services.  And many of the commercial space activities that are being discussed today, as well as others, have and continue to rely on taxpayer investments, NASA expertise and experience, and NASA infrastructure.  In addition, an important factor in the initiation of new commercial space businesses is that NASA-developed technologies have matured to a point that the private sector can begin to seek commercial uses for them. So while I'm as excited as anyone about the potential for growth in commercial space, whether it's in the satellite industry and services, commercial cargo transportation, and commercial reusable suborbital and orbital human spaceflight--oh, and I want to be one of those private passengers--I don't want to perpetuate the misconception that these are purely "commercial" endeavors. There are significant taxpayer dollars associated with these "commercial" activities and there is much at stake for the Government in the successful execution of these programs. As a result, we in Congress need to carry out the oversight that is required to protect the taxpayers' investments and the Government's contributions to these efforts."  

Please visit our website:  http://democrats.science.house.gov

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