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Senates Extends Launch Indemnification Only For One Year, Extends INKSNA Waiver

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 01-Jan-2013
Updated: 01-Jan-2013 03:50 PM

In the wee hours this morning, the Senate not only passed legislation to deal with the fiscal cliff, but a bill that would extend the FAA's authority to indemnify commercial launch services companies against certain third-party claims.  The FAA's launch liability indemnification authority expired at midnight.  The bill is entirely different than what passed the House in November, so must be returned to the House for its consideration.

The Senate kept the House bill number, HR. 6586, but replaced all the text with a modified version of S. 3661, the Space Exploration Sustainability Act introduced by Senators Nelson (D-FL) and Hutchison (R-TX) on December 5.  The Senate version of H.R. 6586, as passed this morning, provides for the following:

  • Extends the launch liability indemnification authority, but for only one year.  The House-passed version was for a two year extension.
  • Extends NASA's waiver from the Iran, North Korea, Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA) so it can purchase services from Russia for the International Space Station through December 31, 2020, and also strikes the language "or for the purchase of goods or services relating to human spaceflight."  The House-passed bill did not address this issue.
  • Amends the 2010 NASA authorization act to add a sense of Congress statement about the human spaceflight program that, among other things, says that NASA should not take money from the Space Launch System or Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (authorized in Title III of that law) in order to pay for commercial crew (authorized in Title IV of that law) or vice versa.  The House-passed bill did not address this issue.

The House is in session today, so it is possible it could take up the legislation immediately.  Or not.   The congressional schedule is very fluid at the moment.


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