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House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Bills Promote Commercial Space Safety and Success

Press Release From: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
Posted: Tuesday, May 12, 2015

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Washington, D.C.  Members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee today introduced a package of four space bills intended to bring stability and certainty to the growing commercial space market. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) introduced the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 or SPACE Act, alongside Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Congressman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) and 10 additional cosponsors.

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy: "The American spirit is, by its very nature, a pioneering one. From the development of the west to being the first to put a man on the moon, no frontier has been too intimidating for American ingenuity. In today's quest for understanding the final frontier, the commercial spaceflight industry is helping to lead the way. This legislation ensures that commercial spaceflight can continue to innovate, all the while generating high-quality American manufacturing jobs and leading the world into the next generation of spaceflight. Since I first came to Congress, I have watched the innovative minds in eastern Kern County grow this industry from the ground up by making investments in the future. Without this legislation, the industry may face myriad regulatory hurdles that threaten to stymie American exceptionalism in space exploration. Commercial space represents all that is great with America and I am proud to introduce legislation to strengthen it."

Chairman Lamar Smith: "American space companies are vital to maintaining American space leadership. These companies provide space access for our technology economy and are working to take U.S. astronauts into space. Premature or overly burdensome regulations could have a crippling effect on the commercial space community. By extending the learning period, our bills ensure any future regulatory efforts are suited to the needs of this still-growing American space industry without stifling innovation or stunting growth. We must provide our commercial space partners with the support they need to operate safely and successfully."

Congressman Steven Palazzo: "This bill will help ensure American leadership in space by fostering a strong and vibrant commercial space industry. By promoting stability and flexibility in the commercial space market, the SPACE Act will nurture private enterprise and promote industry growth. Our commercial space partners are a national asset and will continue to help us achieve our goal of once again launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil."

In addition to McCarthy, Smith and Palazzo, the SPACE Act was introduced with the support of the following cosponsors: Representatives Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), Randy Weber (R-Texas), Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.), Bill Posey (R-Fla.), John Moolenaar (R-Mich.), Steve Knight (R-Calif.), and Brian Babin (R-Texas).

Currently, commercial space companies are involved in activities such as launching and maintaining commercial and government satellites, supporting national security assets, and contracting with NASA's Commercial Cargo and Commercial Crew programs in support of the International Space Station. Even more companies are testing and developing capabilities for the next generation of space exploration and discovery technologies. The SPACE Act facilitates a pro-growth environment for the developing commercial space industry by improving safety, encouraging private sector investment, and creating more stable and predictable regulatory conditions.

The bill reaffirms the FAA's existing ability to protect the public, national security interests, property and foreign policy interests and preserves existing authorities related to spaceflight participant and crew safety. Using this regulatory backdrop, it extends the developing commercial spaceflight industry's current learning period structure through 2023. The current learning period expires in September. The extended learning period will allow the FAA to better incorporate data from current activity as well as input from the commercial space industry. Other safety provisions would require an orbital traffic management report to maintain a safe and secure environment for commercial and government assets and language to encourage protection of state and launch operator interests.

The bill also contains provisions to bolster American space companies' international launch competitiveness and greater launch license flexibility, among other things.

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation, which represents more than 50 commercial space companies across the United States, expressed its "strong endorsement" of the bill and praised it as the "culmination of many years of bipartisan oversight and study by the House, spanning multiple congresses, on matters related to U.S. commercial space transportation."

Stu Whitt with Mojave Air & Space Port applauded introduction of the bill as part of the "business of extending certain policy initiatives to promote American interests in Space.  We look forward to House consideration of this important legislation which strengthens the notion of industry-wide lesson sharing." 

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX): "SpaceX supports the House's SPACE Act that will update the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act to strengthen U.S. commercial space competitiveness, and looks forward to continuing working with Congress as the legislation moves forward."

In a statement Blue Origin President Rob Meyerson called the bill "an important step forward for commercial human spaceflight in the United States", and noted its "support for the adventurers and astronauts who intend to enjoy the experiences of spaceflight while allowing the industry to mature through a safe and thoughtful regulatory approach."

Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company CEO George Whitesides thanked the bill sponsors for their leadership: "The SPACE Act enables industry to work with FAA to continuously improve safety, while promoting innovation and improved services. The bill also streamlines processes that will help companies operate sooner and more frequently while maintaining safety as a top priority."

In addition to the SPACE Act, the Committee has introduced and intends to mark up three other commercial space bills on Wednesday, May 13th, including: 

H.R. ____, the "Commercial Remote Sensing Act of 2015" introduced by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) 

H.R. ____, the "Office of Space Commerce Act" introduced by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) 

H.R. 1508, the "Space Resource Exploration and Utilization Act of 2015" introduced by Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) and Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) 

H.R. ____, the "Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015" 

Fact sheet 

More information on the bills can be found here

 

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