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Chairman Smith Speaks in Support of SPACE Act (Remarks)

Press Release From: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
Posted: Thursday, May 21, 2015

Washington, D.C.  House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today delivered the following remarks on the House floor in support of H.R. 2262, the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 or SPACE Act, which he recently introduced with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Chairman Lamar Smith: Thanks go to Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, an honorary member of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee for sponsoring this important legislation. 

Space commercialization is the future of space. This bill will encourage the private sector to launch rockets, take risks, and shoot for the heaven.

H.R. 2262, the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015, or SPACE Act, facilitates a pro-growth environment for the developing commercial space sector. 

It creates more stable regulatory conditions and improves safety, which in turn attracts private investment.

Members of Congress should know that earlier this week the administration officially stated that it, "does not oppose House passage of the bill."     

The SPACE Act secures American leadership in space and fosters the development of advanced space technologies.

The SPACE Act preserves the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) ability to regulate commercial human spaceflight in order to protect national security and public health and safety. And the Act preserves the FAA's ability to regulate spaceflight participation and crew safety in the event of an accident.            

This bill calls for a progress report on the knowledge the industry and FAA have gained about the operation and licensing of commercial human spaceflight.           

This allows the commercial space industry to develop standards and coordinate with the FAA so the industry can grow in a stable regulatory environment without the threat of arbitrary regulations that would adversely impact their ability to innovate.          

International law places liability for damages that result from space accidents on the launching nation. All spacefaring nations require some form of third party liability insurance for launching entities. 

The current U.S. risk-sharing structure expires in 2016. This Act extends indemnification to the year 2025 and requires an update on how the FAA calculates the maximum probable loss associated with launches. Indemnification has never been utilized and is subject to future appropriations. 

This provision will prevent U.S. space companies from going overseas where other nations have more favorable liability protection. 

The SPACE Act also closes a statutory loophole that negates an experimental permit once a launch license is issued for the same vehicle design. This fosters greater innovation and allows an experimental permit holder to continue testing while a license holder conducts operations.  

Current law only allows for two categories of individuals carried within a spacecraft  crew and space flight participants.  

Now that NASA is allowing other astronauts access to the International Space Station, a new category is necessary to outline the roles, responsibilities and protections for astronauts on a commercial human spaceflight launch.            

This bill also closes a loophole that carved out an exception for spaceflight participants from indemnification coverage. By including these individuals in the indemnification provision, spaceflight participants who may participate in a launch as a result of a contest or for other reasons are not burdened with financial exposure above the limits.         

This bill also ensures that federal courts review lawsuits that result from accidents since the federal government is ultimately the responsible party, not the states. 

Current law requires that all parties involved in a launch waive claims against each other. This bill adds spaceflight participants to the cross waiver requirement to ensure consistency and reinforce the informed consent requirements.            

Various space community stakeholders have expressed support for this bill. They include Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, Mojave Air & Space Port, SpaceX, the National Space Society, and the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, which represents more than 50 commercial space companies across the United States.    

This bill also includes many bipartisan provisions recently considered by the Science Committee. 

These provisions provide for the exploration and use of asteroid resources, streamline the regulatory process for commercial remote sensing, and update the Office of Space Commerce. These are all common-sense provisions with bipartisan support.         

This bill is the product of over three years of work, numerous committee hearings, and input from industry, education groups, and grassroots citizen advocacy groups. Virtually every stakeholder group has supported this bill.

H.R. 2262 will keep America at the forefront of aerospace technology, promote American jobs, reduce red tape, promote safety, and inspire the next generation of explorers. 

I encourage my colleagues to support this bill and yield back the balance of my time. 

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