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Joint Commerce Committee Statement on Senate Passage of Bill to Boost Competitiveness of U.S. Space Industry

Press Release From: Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Posted: Tuesday, November 10, 2015

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U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee Chairman Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee Ranking Member Gary Peters (D-Mich.) issued the following statements on the passage of H.R. 2262, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, a bicameral, bipartisan bill that encourages competitiveness, reflects the needs of a modern-day U.S. commercial space industry, and guarantees operation of the International Space Station until at least 2024. The bill builds on key elements in S. 1297 that the Commerce Committee approved earlier this year and passed the Senate on August 4, 2015.

“Today, the Senate passed a bill with far-reaching implications for the future of space exploration and the U.S. space industry,” said Chairman Thune. “I appreciate the efforts of my Senate colleagues, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith who, among other congressional space policy leaders, were critical to building consensus around the bill that passed today.”

“This will help bolster an already thriving U.S. commercial space industry, especially in Florida where we are seeing an amazing transformation of the Kennedy Space Center into a bustling space port,” said Ranking Member Nelson, who sponsored the original Commercial Space Launch Act over thirty years ago. “It also paves the way for NASA to begin launching astronauts to the International Space Station on American-made commercial rockets while providing jobs for the economy.”

"This law makes a commitment to supporting the continued development of a strong commercial space sector and recognizes the major stake Texas has in space exploration,” said Subcommittee Chairman Cruz. “It also provides NASA and the International Space Station with nearly a decade of mission certainty by extending the operation and utilization of the International Space Station until 2024. Most importantly, it solidifies America's leading role in the commercial space sector and builds upon the work of President Reagan. ”

“The researchers, entrepreneurs and manufacturers that make up our commercial space industry are driving innovation that helps grow our economy and furthers NASA’s research and human exploration priorities in space,” said Subcommittee Ranking Member Peters. “I am pleased that we were able to come together with our colleagues in the House to craft a final bipartisan bill that promotes new research, creates jobs and encourages the next major advancements in space exploration.”

The Senate-passed substitute amendment to H.R. 2262 renames the measure as the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act and merges agreed upon provisions based on the previously passed bills in the Senate and House. The amendment was sponsored by U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R- Texas), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), and Patty Murray (D-Wash.). The bill now heads back to the House for final approval.

Key provisions include the following:

Extends the Operation of the International Space Station

Provides a four-year extension of the International Space Station (ISS) until at least 2024 by directing the NASA Administrator to take all necessary steps to ensure the ISS remains a viable and productive facility capable of utilization including for scientific research and commercial applications.

Ensures Stability for Continued Development and Growth of the Commercial Space Sector

Provides an extension of the regulatory learning period through September 30, 2023 so that the commercial space sector can continue to mature and innovate before the Department of Transportation transitions to a regulatory approach. The current learning period expires on March 31, 2016.

Extends Indemnification for Commercial Launches

Extends through September 30, 2025 a key risk sharing provision in current law critical to keeping a level playing field in the global market for U.S. commercial space enterprises.

Identifies Appropriate Oversight for the Commercial Development of Space

Directs the Office of Science and Technology Policy, in consultation with the Department of Transportation, Secretary of State, NASA and other relevant Federal agencies, to assess and recommend approaches for oversight of commercial non-governmental activities conducted in space that would prioritize safety, utilize existing authorities, minimize burdens on industry, promote the U.S. commercial space sector, and meet U.S. obligations under international treaties.

Space Resource Exploration and Utilization (Asteroid Mining)

Establishes a legal right to resources a U.S. citizen may recover in space consistent with current law and international obligations of the United States. Directs the President to facilitate and promote the space resource exploration and recovery.

Updates Space Launch System

Provides a use policy for NASA’s heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System.

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