Spacelift Washington Update: Congress orders 2-year review of Space Launch Indemnification

By frank_sietzen
October 20, 2000
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Spacelift Washington

Spacelift Washingon Archive

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 – Following its vote Oct. 13th to renew third party space launch liability protection for four years, the Senate also voted to review the entire issue of the federal government’s role in the launch liability issue.

Should it survive in final legislative form, the requirement mandates the Secretary of Transportation establish a commission to recommend the future path of liability protection for U.S. commercial space launch providers “no later than 18 months after the date of the enactment of this legislation” with specific proposals that could be enacted or established “at least two years prior to the expiration of the extension”.

Called a “Review of the Liability Regime for Commercial Space Transportation”, the commission would face a host of requirements:

  • Analyze the adequacy, propriety, and effectiveness of, and the need for, the current liability risk-sharing regime in the United States for commercial space transportation;
  • Examine the current liability and liability-sharing regimes in other countries with space transportation capabilities;
  • Examine the effect of relevant government treaties on the federal government’s liability for commercial space launches;
  • Examine the appropriateness, as commercial reusable launch vehicles enter service, of evolving the commercial space transportation liability regime toward the approach of airline liability regimes;
    Recommend appropriate modifications to the commercial space transportation liability regime and actions required to accomplish those modifications.

The extension provides up to $1.5 billion in U.S. government funds in the event a U.S. commercial launch company is sued for third party property loss, injury or death following a launching mishap. No such claim has ever been filed. Space launch providers must obtain private launch liability insurance of up to $500 million as the base for the third party additions.

At the same time the Senate was calling for a review of space launch liability, it mandated the Secretary of Commerce report back by late January on a review of the need for and functions of that department’s Office of Space Commercialization. The Senate voted to increase the office’s budget from 2001 to 2003.

Related Links

  • H.R. 2607, Commercial Space Transportation Competitiveness Act of 1999

  • 18 October 2000: House Passes Bipartisan Commercial Space Bill – Bill Enhances U.S. Commercial Space Competitiveness By Extending Launch Indemnification, House Science Committee

  • 13 October 2000: Spacelift Washington: Senate Gives Space Launch Indemnity 4 Year Extension

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    Have information about space transportation? Email the editor at sietzen@erols.com