Volume 3, No.
House Subcommittee on Space and
on the Commercial Space Launch Industry
The chairman of the House Subcommittee on Space and
Aeronautics, Dana Rohrabacher, presided over a rather sparse
committee today, 6/10/99. The topic of the day, barriers to
commercial space launch, came on the heels of the Cox report. The
eye-opening investigation, commissioned by the House, detailed
evidence of Chinese espionage and the transfer of sensitive nuclear
and missile technologies from the U.S. to China. In order to help
prevent this from happening again the commission recommended an
increased launch capability within the U.S. and the expansion of
the commercial space launch capacity.
The chairman expressed four issues of concern in
regards to the commercial space environment which he plans to
address in the near future. The first issue was indemnification. In
this regard he mentioned he intends to introduce a bill which would
include a five year renewal to indemnify the aerospace industry. He
also emphasized that he would eventually introduce a more expansive
bill regarding indemnification. The second issue was in regards to
the modernization and privatization of national launch ranges.
Third, he wanted to examine how the government buys transportation
services. Finally, he wanted to discuss a bill which would supply
tax incentives for private investment in space and space related
Mr. Edward A. O'Connor, Jr., Executive
Director of the Spaceport Florida Authority
Mr. O'Connor stated that current
launch ranges have many deficiencies. Many of these stem from the
fact that the Air Force, which controls the ranges, has not been
spending as much as they should on updating and maintaining the
The Honorable Andrea Seastrand, Executive
Director of the California Space and Technology Alliance
He pointed out that there is little incentive for
the Air Force to pay for upgrading a launch range which is
primarily used by others. He emphasized that there are many small
aerospace companies which have been turned away by the cost and
hassle of utilizing existing U.S. launch ranges, and in turn have
chosen to look for launch sites in other nations, i.e. China. In
order to help reverse this trend, and to improve the situation for
all of the industry, new transportation and infrastructure are
Finally, he pointed out that there has been a lack
of executive leadership. One way to improve this, he suggested, is
by reinstating the National Space Council or a similar body.
She described what has been happening
in the state of California as far as the aerospace industry is
concerned. She pointed out that California developed a list of
priorities which should be addressed to help eliminate barriers to
space launch, specifically, 1) the need for a significant revision
of the Commercial Space Launch Act, 2) creating awareness and
support among federal policy makers, 3) increasing funding for more
efficient, cost-effective launch infrastructure, 4) streamlining
federal regulations, 5) creating an educated workforce, and 6)
increasing public awareness.
Mr. Bruce Mahone, Director, Space Policy
Aerospace Industries Association
She also mentioned that, through meetings among
stakeholders, California identified seven critical issues which
need to be addressed. These issues include extension of federal
indemnification for licensed launch activities, improved
opportunities for use of federal government property and services
in support of commercial launch activities at a predictable price,
and revision of the terms "direct cost" and "launch" in the
Commercial Space Launch Act.
She also identified issues of secondary importance,
one of these being the creation of a space advocate in the White
House, (which may or may not be similar to the National Space
He testified that the biggest concern
for the aerospace community is funding for research and
development. He pointed out that although funding for R&D has
increased nationwide, government funding for research and
development among the aerospace community has declined. In fact,
R&D funding for the aerospace community has been reduced back
to the levels it experienced during the Carter administration.
However, under Carter for every $1 the industry spent on R&D
the government spent $4. Currently, for every $1 the industry
spends the government spend $2. He warned that if this trend
continues the strength of the aerospace industry will wane.
Dr. Jerry Grey, Director, Aerospace and
Science Policy, American Institute of Aeronautics and
Finally, he discussed some of the implications of a
continued reduction in funding. He stated that the U.S. will
experience a loss in the national leadership in Aerospace, an
increase in national security costs, a "brain drain" of qualified
individuals who decide to employ their talents elsewhere, and an
inability to attain the revolutionary technological breakthroughs
which are so necessary to reduce environmental costs and the costs
of propulsion, guidance, and materials.
He identified three barriers to space
launch: 1) an insufficient U.S. market to support industry
expansion, 2) the high cost and failure rates of current and
projected launch services, and 3) the large investment and economic
risk in developing new launch systems.
Ms. Laura Montgomery, Attorney-Advisor, Office
of the Chief Counsel, Federal Aviation Administration
Grey offered three avenues by which the current
space launch situation could be remedied by government policy.
These included governmental purchasing of all launch services from
commercial providers, (with some exceptions), more effective
implementation of current export control legislation on satellites
and space launch services, and increased budgetary support of
generic (R&T base) and focused R&T programs in space
transportation, especially propulsion.
He also mentioned actions which the aerospace
industry could take to rectify the current space launch situation,
such as development of industry-generated standards and improved
interaction with the non-aerospace industry.
Finally, Grey offered methods of improvement which
the industry and the government could engage in jointly. They
included orbital degree mitigation practices, the establishment of
a joint mechanism to encourage the launch of secondary payloads,
cooperation between aeronautics and space development
organizations, and the transfer of government developed
technologies to the private sector.
Grey concluded his comments by stating that the
government can also offer incentives for industry to help improve
launch systems. One such example was providing industry access to
On the regulatory front, she argued
that the commercial space transportation licensing regulations that
were issued in 1988 are in need of being updated. Specifically, she
stated "a good regulatory process prevents unnecessary barriers
from being created in the first place."
Montgomery mentioned that one "possible future
challenge to commercial space launch is the potential for conflict
between the needs of commercial aviation for unimpeded use of the
national airspace system (NAS) and the promise of more numerous and
diverse commercial space activities." The FAA is currently working
to solve this problem.
The FAA's goal, in regards to space launch, "is to
create a seamless, integrated Space and Air Traffic Management
System to allow the efficient use of the NAS by all operators with
as little impact on each other as possible."
Finally, she mentioned that the FAA is working hard
to be prepared for evolving needs of the space launch industry. For
example, the FAA has established an inspector training program to
prepare for the increased role which the FAA will have to play in
future commercial launch activities; especially those which occur
at locations other than federal ranges.
This capsule was prepared
by Adam Herringa and Miles Swanson; participants in the 1999 NSSHQ
summer intern program.
About the NSS Capital
The Capsule is a timely report of highlights and statements from
Capitol Hill hearings and other events involving space issues. The
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