House committee passes new commercial space bill


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Last week the House Science committee passed a new commercial space bill designed to streamline the licensing system that presently exists for getting private space missions certified as required under the Outer Space Treaty.

The bill reforms the existing licensing system for commercial remote sensing satellites, streamlining a process that many companies in that sector said results in lengthy delays. It also establishes a “certification” process for commercial spaceflight not otherwise licensed today in order to eliminate any regulatory uncertainty and ensure compliance with the Outer Space Treaty.

“The goal of this bill is not to regulate space broadly,” [Committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas)] said in a statement at the markup. “Instead, the bill takes a commonsense approach by establishing a legal foundation upon which U.S. industry can flourish.”

I am in the process of reviewing the proposed law, and hope to write something detailed about it in the next few days. I should say here that in general this law seems to be trying to address the same issues relating to the Outer Space Treaty that have been discussed during the Senate hearings organized recently by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas). And while to me the resulting bill seems generally good, it still leaves hanging the Outer Space Treaty’s fundamental problems relating to property rights.

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7 comments

  • Pzatchok

    Its not like I actually expect these agreements to hold for more than a minute once space colonies start to become semi-independent and or a military asset.

    What if nuclear material or rare Earth elements are found in high concentration on the moon?
    Would the US invest billions of capital, lives and time into finding it, mining it, refining it, and setting up an export system just to have it taken by a few Chinese troops or to let some Middle East nation send enough emigrants to bring about a slow passive invasion and take it over by vote?

    Or some stupid UN agreement makes the US share all the profits with the rest of the world?

    Mechanics call these tail light agreements. As soon as I leave the table and you see my tail lights the agreement is over.

  • Pzatchok

    The rules will change as soon as some big enough company pays some politician enough to get something they want done.

  • LocalFluff

    Didn’t corporate some representatives during Ted Cruz’ hearing recently say that they wanted to keep the OST and that the US could regulate space flight at will within it? Sounds great! But I wonder how the Chinese will regulate their space flight at will within it… If OST is legally meaningless, it would be the next best thing to abolishing it. The US should claim space as its territory.

  • ken anthony

    Looking forward to your analysis. It seems to defer to the OST and its ambiguities?

  • LocalFluff

    Sorry for off topic, I’ll come back to it when it comes up.
    But I just stumbled upon what looks like an Indian government document with a list of their actual recent small sat launch fees for foreign customers, on page 5. It ain’t cheap per kilogram. €120,000 is the lowest price paid, for a 3U cubesat.
    http://164.100.47.234/question/annex/238/Au922.pdf

  • wayne

    Pzatchok—
    good stuff.

    I’d be remiss if I didn’t note;
    House Committee’s pass all sorts of stuff, all the time. (Same with the Senate.)
    >Those are not “laws,” they are mostly Show Votes.
    It still needs to be added to the House calendar and will not be voted upon by the full House, unless & until Ryan wants it brought up.
    Then it has to go through the corresponding Senate Committee, and will only be added to the Senate calendar, if & when McConnell wants it’s brought up.
    Then, the language in both versions has be reconciled and passed (again) in both the House & Senate with identical language, and finally to Trump.

  • LocalFluff: Very nice find! Thank you.

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