House Approves  H.R. 3752, The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004


WASHINGTON, D.C. - The House of Representatives today approved legislation, sponsored by Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), designed to promote the development of the emerging commercial human space flight industry.  H.R. 3752, The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004, would put in place a clear, balanced regulatory regime to promote the industry while ensuring public safety.  The legislation now heads to the U.S. Senate.

"Through our hearings and other work on the bill, I have come to see this as one of the most important measures this Committee will move this year," stated House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY).  "This is about a lot more than 'joy rides' in space, although there's nothing wrong with such an enterprise.  This is about the future of the U.S. aerospace industry.  As in most areas of American enterprise, the greatest innovations in aerospace are most likely to come from small entrepreneurs.  This is true whether we're talking about launching humans or cargo.  And the goal of this bill is to promote robust experimentation, to make sure that entrepreneurs and inventors have the incentives and the capabilities they need to pursue their ideas.  That's important to our nation's future."  Boehlert's full statement follows this release.

Rohrabacher noted, "It is my sincere hope that this bill will encourage individuals like Burt Rutan and others to continue leading the way in pushing the boundaries of technology and safety by building and flight testing hardware, something NASA has yet to do.  This fine piece of legislation carries forward my goal of promoting this new industry and cutting back bureaucratic red tape, while protecting the public health and safety."

"No one can say for certain whether commercial human space flight will become a major industry.  However, I believe that the provisions in H.R.3752 will help nurture its growth while at the same ensuring that public health and safety are protected," said Science Committee Ranking Democrat Bart Gordon (D-TN).

Major provisions of the legislation are designed to:

  • eliminate any confusion about who should regulate flights of suborbital rockets carrying human beings by explicitly locating all commercial space flight authority under the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST);
  • make it easier to launch new types of reusable suborbital rockets by allowing AST to issue experimental permits that can be granted more quickly and with fewer requirements than licenses;
  • extend government indemnification for the entire commercial space transportation industry (including licensed, non-experimental commercial human space launches) for a period of three years, but the bill will not grant indemnification for flights conducted under experimental permits, which will be more lightly regulated; and
  • require a study on how best to gradually eliminate indemnification for the commercial space transportation industry by 2008 or as soon as possible thereafter.

Today's House passage represents the culmination of a long and thorough process beginning last July with a joint House-Senate hearing, a Space Subcommittee hearing last fall and a policy roundtable with experts in the commercial space transportation industry late last year.

"Today, the U.S. House of Representatives has led the nation toward a significant next step in developing space and creating a major new economic engine for powering our nation's economy.  With the passage of HR 3752, the House has demonstrated real vision for America's future in space.  This bill helps define the critical framework for a commercial space regulatory process and authorizes the very important federal agency that is responsible for commercial space regulation.  The leadership of both the House Subcommittee on Space and the House Committee on Science should be highly commended for their  work in passing this bill," said Tim Huddleston, Executive Director of the Aerospace States Association.

"H.R. 3752 is precisely the kind of legislation Congress should enact in order to give investors like me confidence that our space tourism ventures will be regulated in a fair and streamlined manner.  I hope the Senate takes up this bill soon and sends it on to President Bush for his signature.," stated Dennis Tito, the first space tourist in history.

Jeff Greason, President of Xcor Aerospace, a private rocket firm with goals of sending human beings into space said, "We think H.R. 3752 is very carefully crafted legislation which will help commercial human spaceflight develop in America.  Confirming the FAA's definition of suborbital flight, establishing a 'fly at your own risk' human spaceflight regime, and creating the new 'experimental permit' framework are all important steps which we fully support.  We hope the bill moves through Congress swiftly retaining these key provisions."

###

108-195

HOUSE SCIENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN SHERWOOD BOEHLERT (R-NY)

Floor Statement on H.R. 3752

The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004

Let me begin by thanking Mr. Rohrabacher, the chairman of our Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, for introducing this measure, for continually pressing for its passage, and for working so cooperatively with us while drafting it.  He has single-handedly made this a priority issue for the entire Committee.

I have to admit that when Mr. Rohrabacher first came forward with the idea for this bill, I thought the notion was a little, well, flighty.  But through our hearings and other work on the bill, I have come to see this as one of the most important measures this Committee will move this year.

Let me tell you why.  This is about a lot more than "joy rides" in space, although there's nothing wrong with such an enterprise.  This is about the future of the U.S. aerospace industry.  As in most areas of American enterprise, the greatest innovations in aerospace are most likely to come from small entrepreneurs.  This is true whether we're talking about launching humans or cargo.  And the goal of this bill is to promote robust experimentation, to make sure that entrepreneurs and inventors have the incentives and the capabilities they need to pursue their ideas.  That's important to our nation's future.

Those entrepreneurs - the kinds of folks who are inventing new rockets for cargo, and who are endowing and competing for the X-prize - are doing our nation a tremendous service - and I should add, they also seem to be enjoying themselves.

So, what do those people need from us?  The simplistic answer is, "They just need government to get out of the way."  But as usual, the truth is more complex.

The innovators need - and are seeking - a government regulatory regime that will provide predictability - a regime that can offer stability and support to help them attract private capital.  And the general public needs such a regime, as well, to ensure that the public at large faces no undue health or safety risks from any flights.  In short, this industry requires government regulation, but not so much regulation as to stifle it.

        This bill, which has been painstakingly negotiated with all interested parties, strikes the proper balance.  It recognizes the industry's need to experiment - indeed, it creates a new regulatory instrument to encourage that experimentation - while recognizing the obligation to protect the crew and the general public.

I should add, since I know that Mr. Flake will bring this issue up a little later, that this regulation can be provided without any increase in the budget of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  We will be accepting Mr. Flake's amendment.  I would note that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reached the same conclusion - that no additional funding is needed to carry out this bill.

I should also add, that under this bill, the government will go beyond creating a stable environment for these entrepreneurs.  The bill extends the existing provision of law under which the government indemnifies the companies undertaking these flights for set amounts and purposes.  In keeping with past Congressional practice, we are extending indemnification temporarily - for three years in this case - and we are also asking for a study to determine how to end indemnification without harming the industry.  I don't think the government should be taking on the risks of this enterprise forever.

        So, this is a very fair, balanced, carefully crafted bill that will both help a budding industry and protect the public.  The result, over time, should be the development of new ideas on ways to take humans into space on suborbital rockets.  We're still a long way off from making rockets "common carriers" like airplanes, but we need to promote the experimental work.

        I want to thank Chairman Young of the Transportation Committee for working with us on the jurisdictional issues that this bill presented.  I also want to thank the staff who worked on this bill, particularly one of our newer staffers, Tim Hughes, who has become an expert in this area of law.

I urge my colleagues to support this bill.  Thank you.

Please follow SpaceRef on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.