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Biden White House proposes major expansion of the regulations governing commercial space

We’re here to help you! The Biden White House yesterday proposed a major expansion of the regulations that govern commercial space, with the changes aimed at splitting all regulation within the Transportaion and Commerce Departments, but expand the regulations to so as to increase the power of the government over all future activitives, from rockets to spacecraft to space stations.

According to the White House’s statement [pdf]:

Specifically, this proposal would amend 51 U.S.C. 50902 to define a “human space flight vehicle” as a vehicle, including a launch vehicle or reentry vehicle, habitat, or other object, built to operate in suborbital trajectory or outer space, including on a celestial body, with a human being on board. A license would then be required for a citizen of the United States to operate a human space flight vehicle in outer space. (51 U.S.C. 50904).

DOT would authorize the operation of a human space flight vehicle consistent with public health and safety, safety of property, space sustainability, international obligations of the United States, and national security, foreign policy, and other national interests of the United States. (51 U.S.C. 50905). This proposal adds “space sustainability” and “other national interests” to DOT’s current authority. Including “space sustainability” would allow DOT to include debris mitigation and require measures to protect the sustainable use of outer space in their regulations, to include the mitigation and remediation of orbital debris and consideration of impacts to the space operational environment. [emphasis mine]

Essentially, these new rules — purposely written to be vague — will allow the government to forbid any activity in space by private citizens it chooses to forbid. No private space station could launch without government approval, which will also include the government’s own determination that the station will be operatied safely. Once launched, the vagueness of these regulations will soon allow mission creep so that every new activity in space will soon fall under its review.

Since no one in the government is qualified to supervise things like this, in the end politics and the abuse of power will be the rule.

Moreover, by what constitutional right does the federal government have to supervise the work of all space companies, in all things? It doesn’t have that right, and in fact the Constitution was written expressly to forbid it from attempting such a thing. The Constitution however is nothing more than fish wrap in modern America.

Note that most other news reports on this proposal are making it sound as nothing more than a simple revision of the law to better organize the regulatory system. The assumption is always that the government is all-knowing and all-seeing, and has the ability to act as school teacher for everyone else.

Initially we can expect these regulations will be followed with good faith, but such things never last. Given time they will end up squelching freedom in space and the entire American effort to colonize the solar system. And should any American colony become reasonably self-sufficient under these rules (something not likely), the rules guarantee that they will revolt from American rule as quickly as possible.

At this moment this proposal is simply that. Congress needs to review it and decide if it wishes to do as the Biden White House proposes. Though it is unlikely it will pass as written, it is also likely that our present Congress will simply reword it to accept this expansion of power, in some manner.

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On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

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  • Related:


    Coming to America? Hell, it’s here!

    Read the rest and share with your most confused friends on social media……….

  • Col Beausabre

    “And should any American colony become reasonably self-sufficient under these rules (something not likely), the rules guarantee that they will revolt from American rule as quickly as possible.”

    As a teenager, I thought The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was just a science fiction novel. Now it looks like prophecy

  • David Eastman

    “We’re from the government and we’re here to help” are indeed the scariest words in the English language, Reagan was not wrong.

  • Cotour

    “The only way this is going to change is by cutting the money”.

    It is the ONLY way by design.

    You just have to use it, use the tool, use the political weapon it was designed to be.

    Eventually they will IMO use it, but their opposition is attempting to install all of their own agendas and diminish America before the tool, the political weapon can effectively be used.

    If your enemy knows where you will never go, then they own you and you are defeated.


  • Ming O'Mongo

    Anything that makes NASA look retarded will be quashed. Several of Heinlein’s characters are spinning in their graves, crying, “We told you so!!”

  • David

    The Constitution is not “nothing more than fish wrap in modern America.”

  • Col Beausabre

    David, yes it is.

  • wayne

    Hell on Wheels: Episode 5-14 (2016)
    Thomas Durant speech
    ‘Defending a Legacy’

    “…I will not return from (Mars) having made America’s dream a reality, only to have 6 bureaucrats in starched collars judge the manner in which I realized that dream. Put me on trial, lock me in prison, erase me from the record, for history is written in pencil, but the truth is (orbiting this planet) and one truth above all others is this, without me and men like me, your glorious (rockets) could never have been built.”

  • The Constitution might not be fish wrap, but it is being treated like fish wrap …. wrapping the stinking fish of self-righteous certitude, realpolitik and corruption, by being used to justify lawfare that flies in the face of WHY the document, and the government it defines, exists at all:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

    Not any powers that might sound good to us, but JUST powers … powers that do not work against the reason government is instituted: to secure these rights. Powers that restrict those rights, only when their exercise poses a clear, present, and significant threat to the unalienable rights of others. Other than that, they are “unalienable” … to be kept beyond the reach of even a majority vote, much less bureaucratic or judicial diktat.

    The law is to serve liberty … not the other way around. Otherwise our founding documents have all the meaning of Yang holy words, and are of no practical benefit to the people that supposedly live under them,

  • sippin_bourbon

    I am not opposed to licensing.

    You have to have one for your car (issued by the state).

    Aviators must be licensed (federal). Mariners must be certified and licensed (federal for big boats, state for small). You have to be licensed to key a radio on any frequency that is not CB or FRS.

    Honestly, I was expecting this. The questions of what it takes to license someone (the process and cost) is where it can get hairy. They need to be clear. The problem I foresee is the uniqueness of the vehicles. That will be impossible to standardize.

    Many years in the future, if there is ever a truly well established presence in space, is when enforcement becomes a problem. That is what they fear.

  • sippin_bourbon

    I am more worried about the heavy involvement of commerce. Everything under the sun is placed under commerce o
    For one big reason. Taxes.

    However, I am not convinced that the orbital zones qualify as interstate commerce.

    The power to tax is the power to destroy.

  • Michael S. Kelly

    “Moreover, by what constitutional right does the federal government have to supervise the work of all space companies, in all things? It doesn’t have that right, and in fact the Constitution was written expressly to forbid it from attempting such a thing. ”

    Just a few observations. A right is a freedom of action requiring no one’s permission, and under the American system, the government has no rights. None. Only individual people have rights. The government has only powers, and again under the American system, it has only those powers delegated to it by the people through the Constitution. The people can, at any time, revoke any powers it has delegated to the government.

    It’s about time that we had an Article 5 Convention of States to amend the Constitution, and revoke some of the powers the government has usurped.

  • TMLutas

    Not only would a license be required to operate space flight vehicles, but licenses would not be granted to any non-US citizen.

    “(1) A citizen of the United States (as defined in section 50902(1)(A), (B) or (C) of this
    title) may apply to the Secretary of Transportation for an in-space transportation license or
    transfer of an in-space transportation license under this chapter in the form and way the
    Secretary prescribes.
    “(2) No citizen of the United States may operate a space transportation vehicle without
    authorization under this section, and no person may operate a space transportation vehicle
    from the United States without authorization under this section.

  • sippin_bourbon

    “Not only would a license be required to operate space flight vehicles, but licenses would not be granted to any non-US citizen.”

    This makes sense based on the current scheme.
    Under current space law, each nation is responsible for what the individuals or commercial entities do in space.

    Again, at some point in the distant future, such enforcement will become difficult. I think the bureaucrats know this. Hence a desire to start pushing regulations. I do not believe this will be the last such push.

    COL B.
    I love “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress’ Great book.

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