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President Obama signed several bills into law today (November 25) including the FY2016 National Defense Authorization (NDAA) and the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act.
On a day when many Americans are getting ready for the Thanksgiving holiday tomorrow, the President was reassuring the nation about our security, fulfilling what he agrees is the "silly" tradition of pardoning a turkey, and signing six pieces of legislation.
The President vetoed an earlier version of the NDAA in part because of how Congress dealt with defense budget issues. After he and Congress reached a deal on the budget, Congress passed a revised version on November 10, avoiding a showdown over whether to attempt to override the veto. Although there were still two policy issues the President cited as reasons for his veto (that the bill does not include needed reforms and does not allow the closing of Guantanamo), he obviously decided to sign the new version (S. 1356) nonetheless.
Among other things, the bill limits the number of Russian RD-180 rocket engines that the United Launch Alliance (ULA) can obtain for launching national security satellites. The NDAA is an authorization bill that sets policy and recommends funding levels. Only appropriations committees actually provide funds and that step has yet to take place. Strictly speaking, appropriations committees are not supposed to set policy, but powerful members of the Senate Appropriations Committee disagree with the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) on this issue and a battle is brewing in particular between SASC Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), a high ranking member of the appropriations committee. ULA builds its rockets in Decatur, AL. That is one of many issues that could hold up agreement on a full-year appropriations bill to replace the short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) that expires on December 11.
The Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, H.R. 2262, cleared Congress on November 16. It affects a broad range of commercial space issues, but is getting a lot of publicity because of a provision that grants property rights to materials that U.S. companies mine from asteroids. The bill does not allow U.S. companies to own asteroids, only whatever materials they mine from them. Under the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, the Moon and other celestial bodies, like asteroids, are not subject to national appropriation and governments are required to authorize and supervise the actions of non-government entities (e.g. companies).
H.R. 2262 includes an important phrase that the rights must be consistent with applicable law and U.S. international obligations, which include treaties. The exact wording of the provision is: "A United States citizen engaged in commercial recovery of an
asteroid resource or a space resource under this chapter shall be
entitled to any asteroid resource or space resource obtained,
including to possess, own, transport, use, and sell the asteroid
resource or space resource obtained in accordance with applicable
law, including the international obligations of the United
States." It remains to be seen how the other 102 countries that are signatories to the Outer Space Treaty will react, but U.S. companies at least have some assurance that the U.S. government will back them.
Officials of Planetary Resources, Inc,, one of the companies that plans to mine asteroids, issued a press release today calling the bill "the single greatest recognition of property rights in history," and a point in history where "we were able to establish a permanent foothold in space." They thanked a number of members of Congress by name and their press release includes supportive quotes from five of them: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Patty Murry (D-WA), Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), and Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA). Planetary Resources is headquartered in Redmond, Washington.
The bill has many other provisions. Among them it --
A panel of space policy experts told the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Thursday that NASA has an important role to play in the future, but one different from its roots. They believe NASA, and Congress, must embrace a new paradigm where the agency leads commercial and international partnerships, rather than dominating the program.
The panel -- Lori Garver, John Logsdon and Charles Miller -- covered a broad range of civil space topics, but the focus was human space exploration program, particularly the role of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) between NASA and the commercial sector, and international cooperation, especially with China.
Garver is General Manager of the Air Line Pilots Association and was NASA Deputy Administrator from 2009-2013. Logsdon is an eminent space policy historian and Professor Emeritus at George Washington University. Miller has a long history in entrepreneurial space endeavors and held several positions at NASA in support of commercial space; he is now President of NexGen Space, LLC.
The PPP concept was espoused by Garver when she served at NASA and is exemplified by the commercial cargo and commercial crew programs. The commercial cargo program was initiated by former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin under the George W. Bush Administration. Commercial crew was a concept at that time, but the Obama Administration took the idea and ran with it.
Garver, Logsdon and Miller see those PPPs as harbingers of a new era of space exploration featuring a much greater role for innovative “new space” companies. They view Congress and entrenched NASA-industry interests as obstacles that, for example, led to the requirement for NASA to build the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion capsule using “old space” government procurement methods.
Garver recounted the plan the Obama Administration put forward in the FY2011 budget request, released in February 2010. She is widely viewed as a primary architect of that plan.
The Obama plan called for cancelling the Bush Administration’s Constellation program to return astronauts to the Moon by 2020. Instead, the NASA budget would get a $6 billion increase over 5 years to facilitate the development of commercial crew systems to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS), with another $3 billion invested in “game changing” rocket technologies to enable human exploration beyond low Earth orbit (LEO). The U.S. commitment to the ISS was extended for 5 more years (to 2020, later extended again to 2024). No destination or timetable for human exploration beyond ISS was included, since investment in new technologies was needed before such decisions were made.
Republicans and Democrats in Congress were furious. They had passed NASA Authorization Acts in 2005 and 2008 under Republican- and Democratic-led Congresses, respectively, endorsing the Constellation program and given little or no forewarning of the dramatic shift the President was about to propose. Consequently, Obama was forced into a position of making a speech at Kennedy Space Center two and a half months later (April 15, 2010) setting a destination and timetable – send astronauts to an asteroid by 2025 – though it did little to ameliorate the situation.
Those factors in Congress’s reaction to the Obama plan were not mentioned at the CFR event. Instead, after Garver outlined her efforts at NASA to expand the commercial role, Logsdon said “One thing that’s holding us back is the U.S. Congress... full stop.”
The complaint was that Members of Congress often focus on the needs of their constituents and the jobs in their States and districts created by government programs. In addition, traditional industry contractors and many inside NASA resist change. Logsdon called it a “space industrial congressional bureaucratic classic triangle that still has a lot of power over the civil program."
Garver went so far as to say the human spaceflight program “has become largely a jobs program.” She compared the NASA of today to what it was in the early days of the Space Age: “NASA was the very symbol of capitalist ideals … and now what we’re working with is more of a socialist … plan for space exploration, which is just anathema to what this country should be doing.”
Miller added that if the focus is only on making sure the jobs are "in your district," human space exploration can only be accomplished by adding $5-10 billion to NASA’s budget. Alternatively, “you can let go of control” and still have the same number of jobs by allowing “dynamic innovation” by the commercial sector. He argued that even though three attempts to provide enough NASA funding to pursue human exploration of Mars failed (during the Nixon, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush administrations), some people are still “grasping” for a “central plan … controlling all the strings.”
While the tone of many of the comments could be construed as negative towards NASA and the government in general, Garver stressed that it is not an either/or situation, government or commercial. The two must work together: “we’re not in a race, in a lane in a swimming pool that everybody is racing against each other with our own industry. We’re in maybe a cycling race, where we should be running point in the government with others drafting behind us, and if someone comes alongside because they can pass us because they found a better way, we don’t get out our tire pump and stick them in the spokes. You know, we take the next hill that will help them go even farther.”
Miller echoed that sentiment: “We can open space using a partnership between the best of government and the best of private industry.”
Logsdon said he is asked whether NASA is even needed any more and the answer is yes, because the government must take the risks that the private sector will not.
As for international partnerships, in addition to endorsing cooperation with NASA's traditional partners, all three supported cooperation with China. Logsdon believes China should be made part of the ISS program in the not too distant future. Garver noted that space cooperation can be used as either a carrot or a stick and believes it should be used as a carrot with China to find a way to “work together peacefully.” Garver also asserted, however, that China “basically purchased their space program from Russia,” and is not “innovating like we are, but they will get there, and their interest … in going to the Moon will likely inspire us to go back.”
Logsdon and Miller endorsed a human return to the lunar surface. Logsdon called the Moon “an offshore island” and “I think we should stop at the Moon on the way out” to Mars.
Miller argued that landing on the Moon is a top priority for NASA’s traditional international partners and should involve commercial partnerships, too. “We could have a strategy to go back to the Moon today that would fit within our budget and establish a permanent base there. … It would send a great message around the world.” He led a recently published study for NASA that concluded “we could return humans to the Moon using commercial partnerships by the end of the second term of the next President, and do it within NASA’s existing budget.”
It was the Obama Administration that terminated U.S. plans to return astronauts to the Moon, however. Garver asserted that it did so only because there was not enough money in the budget to pay for a lunar lander and it was a “budget reality, not a ‘we’ll never go to the Moon again’ policy.”
The President’s words in 2010, though, conveyed exactly that finality: “Now, I understand that some believe that we should attempt a return to the surface of the Moon first, as previously planned. But I just have to say pretty bluntly here: We’ve been there before. … There’s a lot more of space to explore, and a lot more to learn when we do.”
Garver argued that NASA now is more interested in Mars than the Moon partially because it needs to justify building the SLS. She has made no secret of her disdain for the SLS since leaving NASA. She supports the development of in-space fuel depots instead that would obviate the need for very large rockets.
Although she left no doubt that she sees the need for a dramatic change in how NASA approaches the future, Garver also said that NASA is “doing a lot of amazing things for the nation and the world” and there is “a lot of political support for that.”
Here is our list of upcoming space policy events. This edition covers two weeks instead of one since the coming week includes the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday and not much is scheduled. The House and Senate are in recess for the holiday week. The Senate returns on November 30; the House on December 1.
During the Weeks
As of Sunday morning, we are not aware of any space policy events on tap for Thanksgiving week, but President Obama has two space-related bills on his desk that could be signed into law once he returns to the States: the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act.
The following week, Congress gets back to work on, among other things, finalizing a FY2016 budget. The Continuing Resolution (CR) currently funding the government expires on December 11. Despite the budget deal agreed to earlier this month, there are enough controversial policy issues at stake that laying odds on getting full-year appropriations passed by then remains risky.
Apart from that, the NASA Advisory Council meets at Johnson Space Center on December 1-3, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James will speak at the National Press Club on December 2, and Orbital ATK will return its Cygnus capsule (though not its Antares rocket) to flight on December 3. Cygnus will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V from Cape Canaveral, FL. Orbital ATK hopes to resume Antares launches from Wallops Island, VA in May 2016.
Also on December 1, NASA's Mars Exploration Program Scientist, Michael Meyer, will give an update on NASA's Mars program at the next Space Policy & History Forum. This one is being held at the Applied Physics Lab (APL) in Laurel, MD, rather than at the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in D.C. APL and NASM co-sponsor this quarterly lecture series.
Those and other events we know about as of Sunday morning are listed below. Check back to see any additions to our Events of Interest list that we learn about later.
Thursday, November 26
Tuesday, December 1
Tuesday-Thursday, December 1-3
Wednesday, December 2
Thursday, December 3
Friday, December 4
NASA today formally placed its first order with SpaceX for a commercial crew mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The date for the launch, and whether SpaceX or Boeing will conduct the first such trip to the ISS, will be determined later.
SpaceX and Boeing were awarded contracts by NASA in September 2014 to take crews to and from the ISS at least twice and up to six times on their Dragon Crew and CST-100 Starliner capsules respectively. Dragon Crew will launch on SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket. Starliner will launch using United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rockets. ULA is owned by Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
NASA says that it needs to place orders for the flights under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCAP) contracts two-three years before launch to give the companies adequate lead time to build the launch vehicles and capsules. It placed its first order with Boeing in May.
NASA remains hopeful that the first commercial crew flights can take place by the end of 2017, while insisting that Congress must provide full funding for the program in FY2016 to make that happen. NASA requested $1.244 billion. The House-passed Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill provided $1.000 billion and the companion bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee provides $900 million. Both amounts are higher than what was provided for FY2015, though less than the request. Congress and the Obama Administration recently agreed on a revised budget plan for FY2016 and FY2017 that could mean more money for NASA, but negotiations are still underway.
NASA asserts that the commercial crew launches will cost less than what it pays Russia for flights on Soyuz, but that is on a per-seat basis. SpaceX's capsule theoretically can accommodate seven people, for example, but NASA must pay for the entire capsule even though it plans to fill only four of those seats. Cargo will fill any remaining volume. Soyuz seats currently cost about $75 million each. NASA's Office of Inspector General said in a 2014 report that the commercial crew program's "independent government cost estimates project significantly higher costs" for commercial crew.
Cost is only one factor in the Obama Administration's 2010 decision to direct NASA to facilitate the development of at least two U.S. commercial crew systems through public-private partnerships (PPPs). Another major objective is ending U.S. reliance on Russia for access to the ISS. As Members of Congress and NASA often say, they want to be able to launch American astronauts from American soil on American rockets. NASA has not had the ability to launch people into space since the space shuttle program was terminated in 2011.
Under the commercial crew PPP, NASA and the companies share the development costs and the government guarantees a certain market for the resulting services. NASA officials have publicly acknowledged that NASA is paying 80-90 percent of the development costs, but argue that it is still much less than what the government would have paid using traditional procurement mechanisms.
United Launch Alliance (ULA) President Tory Bruno announced yesterday that the Atlas V rocket will be equipped with a system capable of taking 24 cubesats into orbit at once as secondary payloads beginning in 2017. Universities can use it for free and the University of Colorado-Boulder will get the first free slot.
ULA is headquartered in Colorado and Bruno made the most of that connection in announcing the new program at the Colorado State Capitol building in Denver. Colorado Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia and the President and the Chancellor of the University of Colorado, Bruce Benson and Philip DiStefano, joined him for the event.
Bruno said the program itself does not yet have a name and invited universities, educators, and students to submit suggestions by December 18, 2015. The winner will get the second free ride. Entries should be sent to ULACubeSats@ulalaunch.com using a campus email address.
More broadly, this "transformational" cubesat launch program, as the company advertises it, offers competitive opportunities for universities to launch at least six CubeSats on two Atlas V missions for free. The company plans to also offer such opportunities on the new Vulcan rocket it is developing to replace the Atlas V. Bruno said it is part of ULA's support for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education. Universities should contact ULA by December 18, 2015 to indicate they are interested in participating. A request for proposals will be released by ULA in early 2016 and winners will be announced that August.
Launching cubesats -- very small satellites 10 centimeters on a side that weigh approximately 1.3 kilograms -- as secondary payloads has become commonplace in recent years. ULA's cubesat dispenser will be able to take 24 of them at a time. ULA did not announce prices for customers other than universities who win the free rides through the competitive selection process.
The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) recommends in its most recent report, released today, that the U.S. government review items on the State Department's Munitions List and the Department of Commerce's Commerce Control List (CCL) to determine which items China could obtain on the open market regardless of U.S. restrictions and which continue to require U.S. protection.
The USCC was created by Congress in the 2001 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to review the national security implications of trade and economic ties between the United States and China. It is currently chaired by Willilam Reinsch, President of the National Foreign Trade Council and former Under Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration (later named the Bureau of Industry and Security). Its comprehensive annual report to Congress is among the many reports it produces.
The 631-page report for 2015 presents a summary and analysis of China's space program based on testimony to the Commission by experts and its own research. On February 18, the Commission took testimony from nine experts on China's space program, including Joan Johnson-Freese of the Naval War College, Dean Cheng of the Heritage Foundation, and Kevin Pollpeter of the University of California-San Diego.
Today's report repeats familiar themes about China's growing capabilities across the broad spectrum of space activities to further its national security, economic and political objectives. These include direct ascent and co-orbital antisatellite (ASAT) capabilities that threaten U.S. satellites up to geosynchronous orbit, the report says. "China has become one of the top space powers in the world" and even though its "space capabilities still generally lag behind those of the United States and Russia, its space program is expanding and accelerating rapidly as many other nations' programs proceed with dwindling resources and limited goals."
One of China's goals is to capture 15 percent of the global launch market and it did so in 2011 and 2012, but not in 2013, the last year for which data is available, the report says. It also wants to export commercial satellites to developing countries, which contributes to demand for use of China's launch services.
However, citing testimony to the Commission by Tate Nurkin of IHS Jane's Aerospace, and comments by former NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe and former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General James Cartwright (Ret.) at a May 2015 Center for Strategic and International Studies event, the Commission writes that U.S. export restrictions under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) "are not currently in line with the pace of technological innovation and are therefore in need of reform in order to protect the U.S. space industry's global competitiveness." Europe's development of "ITAR-free" satellites is an example of the challenges to U.S. industry posed by the export restrictions, it says.
Against that backdrop, the Commission recommends that: "Congress direct appropriate jurisdictional entities to undertake a review of (1) the classification of satellites and related articles on the U.S. Munitions List under the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations and (2) the prohibitions on exports of Commerce Control List satellites and related technologies to China under the Export Administration Regulations, in order to determine which systems and technologies China is likely to be able to obtain on the open market regardless of U.S. restrictions and which are critical technologies that merit continued U.S. protection."
Congress and the Obama Administration have modified export regulations for space products in recent years, but exports to China and certain other countries were excluded.
The report goes on to warn that China may attain greater prestige in human spaceflight because it plans a new space station for launch in 2022, while the International Space Station (ISS) is scheduled for "deorbiting" in 2024.
ISS is not, in fact, scheduled to be deorbited in 2024. The U.S. is committed to operate the ISS until 2024, and Russia and Canada have agreed (Japan and the European Space Agency still have not formally done so), but NASA human spaceflight officials have made clear they hope to keep it operating at least until 2028, the 30th anniversary of the launch of the first modules.
Nevertheless, the Commission sees the possibility of China having "the only space station in orbit" as giving it "a diplomatic tool" that it can "leverage to execute its broader foreign policy goals. Furthermore, given current Congressional restrictions on U.S.-China space cooperation, the United States would not participate in China's space station program barring changes to annual appropriations legislation. For the first time in decades, the United States could be without a constant human presence in space."
The Commission does not have a corresponding conclusion or recommendation, other than to say that "China's rise as a major space power challenges decades of U.S. dominance in space...."
In addition to the export control recommendation, there are three other space-related recommendations in today's report, that Congress --
UPDATE, November 25, 2015: The President signed the bill into law today.
ORIGINAL STORY, November 16, 2015: The compromise version of new commercial space legislation passed the House this evening, clearing the measure for the President. The bill, H.R. 2262, covers a broad range of commercial space policy issues from third party indemnification to asteroid mining.
The compromise bill, which retains the House number following negotiations on House- and Senate-passed versions of the bill, includes the following provisions:
The original version of HR. 2262 passed the House in May. The Senate version, which was quite different, passed in August. The two chambers have been working out their differences ever since. This final version passed the Senate last week.
The House version combined four separate pieces of legislation that cleared the House Science, Space and Technology (SS&T) Committee in May. It was collectively named the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship (SPACE) Act when it passed the House. The Senate bill, S. 1297, was more narrowly cast in some respects, although it included a provision extending operations of the International Space Station until at least 2024.
The bill passed the House today by voice vote under suspension of the rules and now goes to the President for signature.
The lead sponsor of the House version is House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) whose district includes the Mojave Air & Space Port. He said the bill "ensures America remains the leader in space exploration and innovation in the 21st century." House Science, Space and Technology (SS&T) Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Space Subcommittee chairman Brian Babin (R-TX) echoed those sentiments.
Among the organizations applauding passage of the bill are the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) and Deep Space Industries (DSI). CSF called the bill "one of the most significant modernizations of commercial space policy and regulatory legislation" since the 1984 Commercial Space Launch Act (CSLA). DSI, one of two entrepreneurial companies seeking to clarify rights to resources mined from asteroids, also praised passage of the bill. DSI Chair Rick Tumlinson said it "builds on our national space legacy and will help enable the rapid and sustainable growth of America's space economy."
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who led efforts to obtain Senate approval of the compromise last week, today called it "a new era for our commercial ventures in space, which will likely include the development of new drugs, the possibility of mining asteroids and an explosion of new technology as we advance our outreach in space."
Here is our list of space policy events for the week of November 16-20, 2015 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week.
During the Week
The House may take up the compromise commercial space bill (H.R. 2262) on Monday. It passed the Senate on November 10. It is a broad bill that deals not only with traditional commercial space issues like third party indemnification (extending the FAA's authority through 2025) and the "learning period" for commercial human spaceflight (extending the prohibition on new FAA regulations until 2023), but new ones like asteroid mining. This version is a compromise between the bill that passed the House in May and a bill that passed the Senate in August (S. 1297). The lead sponsor of the House version is House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who represents the district that includes the Mojave Air and Space Port. Assuming the bill passes the House, it then will go to the President for signature.
The President could sign the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this week, although the bill has not officially been presented to him yet. It can take a couple of days for clerks to look through the bill and make any necessary "technical and conforming changes" before sending it on to the White House. The Senate passed it on November 10 (the House did so on November 5).
On Thursday, United Launch Alliance (ULA) will announce what it calls a "new program that will transform the way our nation's CubeSats are launched." The announcement (which will be webcast) will take place at the Colorado State Capitol with the State's Lieutenant Governor participating. Both the President and the Chancellor of the University of Colorado also will join ULA President Tory Bruno on stage. ULA is headquartered in Colorado.
Those and other events we know about as of Saturday morning are listed below. Check back throughout the week for updates to our Events of Interest list on our home page.
Tuesday, November 17
Tuesday-Wednesday, November 17-18
Tuesday-Thursday, November 17-19
Wednesday, November 18
Thursday, November 19
Friday, November 20
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said at a campaign event today that while he loves what NASA represents, other problems -- like fixing potholes -- need to be fixed first. He also noted that "space" has been "taken over privately, which is great."
Trump spoke at a Politics and Eggs event in Manchester, NH today. Video is available from WMUR-TV. At about 44:49 into the video, Trump is asked by a 10-year old boy about his views on NASA. Trump replies:
"In the old days it was great. Right now we have bigger problems, you understand that, we've got to fix our potholes. You know we don't have exactly a lot of money. I love NASA. I love what it represents. I love what it stands for. And I hope that someday in the not too distant future we can get that going. Space is terrific. Space is terrific. ... space has actually been taken over privately, which is great. .... Lot of private companies going up into space. And I like that even better. It's very exciting."
He then tells the boy that if that is what he wants to do, it's "terrific for the future" and "whatever it is you love, you do."
In August, Trump was asked his views on sending people to Mars. He gave a similar answer -- that rebuilding the country's infrastructure has higher priority -- but did not talk about his broader views on NASA and the space program.
Jeb Bush, a former Florida governor, and Hillary Clinton, are the two presidential candidates who have had the most positive statements to make about the space program during their campaigns. Bush has said "I'm a space guy" and wants "aspirational goals." Clinton said she "really, really" supports the space program.
The other candidates do not appear to have made substantive statements about their views on space as part of their campaigns. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), however, chairs the Space, Science and Competitiveness Subcommittee of the Senate, Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and is the lead sponsor of commercial space legislation. A compromise version of that bill cleared the Senate last night. In a committee press release, Cruz said it "makes a commitment to supporting the continued development of a strong commercial space sector and recognizes the major stake Texas has in space exploration. ... It provides NASA and the International Space Station with nearly a decade of mission certainty.... Most importantly, it solidifies America's leading role in the commercial space sector and builds upon the work of President Reagan."
UPDATED November 11, with link to text of bill.
ORIGINAL STORY, November 10, 2015: The Senate just passed the compromise version of commercial space legislation that merges Senate- and House-passed bills affecting a broad range of commercial space activities from space launch to mining asteroids. The bill passed by unanimous consent without debate.
The final version of the bill keeps the House bill number (H.R. 2262). A Senate Commerce Committee press release identified the key provisions:
The top Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Commerce Committee and its space subcommittee -- John Thune (R-SD), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Gary Peters (D-MI) -- all praised passage of the bill. Thune noted the efforts of House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) as being "critical" to the bill's passage.
Smith said in a statement that the bill "reflect years of committee hearings and input from industry partners, education groups, and grassroots citizien advocates." He added that he looks forward to a House vote "with strong bipartisan support."
Asteroid mining company Planetary Resources praised the Senate action, saying it provides a "pro-growth environment for the development of the commercial space industry. " It singled out Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representatives Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Bill Posey (R-FL), and Derek Kilmer (D-WA) for their "unwavering" support. Planetary Resources is headquartered in Redmond, WA.
Note: An earlier version of this article said that existing third party liability indemnification expires on September 30, 2016, but it is December 31, 2016.
Events of Interest
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