The National Space Society vision is people living and working in space

06 October 1998


(Washington, DC) -- October 6 -- Congress is poised to complete action on the Commercial Space Act this week, then send the final bill to the White House for the President's signature, according to Pat Dasch, Executive Director of the National Space Society (NSS).

"The bill updates laws and regulations to keep America's space industry competitive and promote the commercial development of space," Pat Dasch said. "It paves the way for the licensing of reusable launch vehicles, encourages the government to purchase space data from private companies, and makes the launch voucher program permanent."

Monday evening (October 5) the House passed the final version of the Commercial Space Act and the Senate is expected to follow suit later this week. The final step in making the bill law is the signature of the President.

Specifically, the bill:

  • Establishes a regulatory framework to license reusable launch vehicles (RLVs). NASA and private industry are building a test vehicle to demonstrate the feasibility of single-stage-to-orbit spacecraft. Private industry also is developing hybrid reusable launch vehicles. The legislation gives the Office of Commercial Space Transportation the authority to license RLVs and thereby allow their use and to ensure the publicŠs safety;
  • Requires NASA to produce a series of reports to spur the development of space commerce aboard the International Space Station. NASA is required to: 1) identify commercial opportunities in the operation, use, servicing and augmentation of the ISS; 2) produce an independent market study to evaluate industry's interest in proving commercial goods and services, and; 3) explain how it plans to encourage and facilitate commercial opportunities on the ISS and the potential savings to taxpayers;
  • Encourages the government to purchase space data from private industry as well as services and applications related to the processing of space data;
  • Reaffirms that the Global Positioning System (GPS) will be operated on a "continuous worldwide basis free of direct user fees." It encourages the Administration to establish the GPS as the international standard and to eliminate foreign barriers to applications of the GPS technology;
  • Makes permanent the launch voucher demonstration program;
  • Requires NASA to "prepare for an orderly transition from the federal operation, or federal management of contracted operation, or space transportation systems to the federal purchase of commercial space transportation services..." Also requires NASA to plan for the potential privatization of the space shuttle program;
  • Requires the U.S. government to purchase space transportation services unless: 1) a payload requires the unique capabilities of the space shuttle; 2) commercial launchers are unavailable when required; 3) there would be an unacceptable risk of the loss of a unique scientific opportunity; 4) it is inconsistent with national security objectives; 5) it is inconsistent with international agreements for international collaborative efforts relating to science and technology; 6) it is more cost effective to use a government demonstration vehicle, and; 7) a payload can make use of the available cargo space on a space shuttle mission;
  • Authorizes the use of ICBMs that were removed from service to comply with treaty agreements for space transportation if: 1) it would result in cost savings to the federal government; 2) meets all mission requirements; 3) is consistent with international obligations, and; 4) approved by the Secretary of Defense.

The section of the bill relating to commercial remote sensing was removed to secure the passage of the legislation, according to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics. "The State Department kept pushing for even more authority than they have now, so rather than give them that authority and make life harder for our remote sensing industry, we decided simply to strike title II [remote sensing title] from the bill, and say, we will come back and talk about that issue on another day," Rohrabacher said.

The National Space Society, which celebrates 25 years in 1999, is an independent, nonprofit space advocacy organization headquartered in Washington, DC. Its 20,000 members and 75 chapters around the world actively promote a spacefaring civilization. Information on NSS and space exploration is available at <>.

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Updated Tue, Jul 22, 2008 at 15:27:15
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