12 June 1998
(Washington, DC) -- June 12 -- The National Space Society (NSS) issued the following statement today on S. 2121, the Space Launch Cost Reduction Act, introduced by Senator John Breaux (R-LA) on May 22, 1998. The Act would create a loan guarantee program to reduce private investment risk and enable the private sector to fund development of low-cost space launch vehicles. NASA would be invested with administrative responsibility for the program.
NSS Executive Director Pat Dasch said, "What role the government plays in enabling private sector development of space technologies is a complex issue around which many different opinions revolve, as we're sure Senator Breaux's office has discovered. We applaud his willingness to open this debate. After initial review of the S. 2121 language, the NSS expresses reservation about using loan guarantees for financing of commercial launch vehicle development as detailed in the bill's present form. While government intervention in the private sector has worked in some cases, we believe that this bill could establish an R&D regime in which NASA has a great measure of control over allocation and spending of private investment funds. As currently written, S. 2121 could lock out small entrepreneurial companies due to its collateral requirements. We believe that there are alternative approaches that even the playing field, such as tax holidays or empowering NASA to increase its buying from the commercial sector."
Ms. Dasch added, "Therefore, in the best tradition of the legislative process, we call for hearings to take place before any legislative action is taken on S. 2121. Let there be a full evaluation of the alternatives for implementing its fundamental concept -- which is enabling private sector development of reusable launch vehicles. The NSS looks forward to playing an active role in that debate.
Until then, we urge the Senate to focus its energies on moving the Commercial Space Act (H.R. 1702) and Senate NASA Authorization bills (S. 1250) to the floor for swift action this year. Each bill contains provisions companies must have in order to be able to fly next generation space vehicles by next year. Those key provisions include creating a regulatory framework to license reusable launch vehicles, and providing liability insurance for vehicles developed through contract between the Administration and developers. Achieving success for these two bills will set a better stage for debating the concept proposed in S. 2121."
The National Space Society, founded in 1974, is an independent, nonprofit space advocacy organization headquartered in Washington, DC. Its 23,000 members and 90 chapters around the world actively promote a spacefaring civilization. Information on NSS and space exploration is available at http://www.nss.org/.