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House Passes Commercial Space Bill: Legislation Establishes Clear Regulatory Framework for Emerging Industry

Press Release From: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
Posted: Saturday, November 20, 2004

image By a vote of 269 to 120, the House of Representatives today passed legislation that seeks to promote the nascent commercial human space flight industry while establishing a clear and balanced regulatory framework for space tourism.  

The bill, H.R. 5382, Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004, was introduced by Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and is largely based on a previous bill, H.R. 3752.  That bill passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support in March of this year by a vote of 402-1.  Following extensive bipartisan negotiations with the Senate and industry on H.R. 3752, Rohrabacher introduced H.R. 5382 as an amended version of the bill on Thursday.  The Senate must now pass H.R. 5382 to clear the measure for the President, who is expected to sign the legislation.  (Senate passage is uncertain, but could occur later today.)

"Today marks a milestone in the history of aviation," stated House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY).  "This legislation will help promote commercial space travel by placing the industry on a firm regulatory footing, while ensuring the industry is sufficiently unconstrained to evolve and develop the new technologies that will one day make journeys into the heavens as real as flights overseas."

Chairman Rohrabacher said, "H.R. 5382 provides a crucial first step in enabling tomorrow's space entrepreneurs to continue the trend of making technological breakthroughs.  We must do all we can to ensure that their efforts continue to bring us hope in the future.  I am grateful to my colleagues' support of this bill so that the emerging commercial human space flight industry can have a successful beginning in giving the American people the chance to fly into space."

H.R. 5382 will help promote the emerging commercial human space flight industry by putting it on a more solid regulatory footing.  It will also make it easier to launch new types of reusable suborbital rockets by allowing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to issue experimental permits that can be granted more quickly and with fewer requirements than licenses.

Among the negotiated changes in the bill is increased authority for FAA to regulate launches with regard to the safety of passengers and crew.  In both the original and current versions, FAA is given full jurisdiction to regulate launch vehicles and procedures to ensure the safety of non-participants (i.e.: third parties on the ground).  H.R. 5382 goes further in safety regulation by allowing FAA to regulate launch vehicles and procedures that have been shown to be dangerous or potentially dangerous to passengers and crew.  The bill also ensures participants are fully aware of the inherent risks of human space travel by requiring launch companies to provide customers and crew with a disclaimer warning that the federal government has not certified the safety of the vehicle. 

At a July, 2002 joint hearing of Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics and the Senate Science, Technology, and Space Subcommittee, witnesses agreed that commercial spaceflight should not be regulated as stringently as the commercial aviation industry.  Elon Musk, CEO of SPACEX suggested that the government "adopt a nurturing and supportive approach to new launch vehicle developments," and "recognize the early and experimental nature of the industry." 

 

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