Monday, March 05, 2018

Establishing a Few New Rules for the Road

          By Brian Orlotti

On March 3rd, Canadian-born US space entrepreneur Robert (Bob) Richards tweeted a “To Do List for US space Leadership.” The list makes reference to an as-yet un-passed piece of US legislation called the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act (ASCFEA).

The ASCFEA was formally introduced June 7th, 2017 by Representative Lamar Smith, the chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Representative Jim Bridenstine, is quite active in space issues and remains a leading candidate for NASA administrator.

Though the bill has received bipartisan support, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee is currently in the process of amending the bill, slowing down its adoption.

Key provisions include:
  • The creation of a single authority for US authorization and supervision of nongovernmental space activities located at the Department of Commerce’s Office of Space Commerce
  • The establishment of a transparent certification process in the least burdensome manner possible
The intent of the bill is to:
  • Provide greater certainty to assure nongovernmental space activities
  • Conform to the United States’ Outer Space Treaty obligations
  • Address concerns that certified activities may pose a safety risk to existing federal government space systems
  • Reform the space-based remote sensing regulatory process
  • Preserve US ability to condition remote sensing operations to protect national security 
  • Enhance national security by ensuring insight into operations and capabilities by creating a competitive environment that discourages offshoring
The bill would also create a certification system for commercial payloads not otherwise licensed by the US government, addressing industry concerns about a regulatory gap for "non-traditional" applications such as satellite servicing, commercial space stations and lunar landing craft.

No US federal agency has oversight of in-space activities, except for NOAA for commercial remote sensing systems and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for communications satellites. Industry believes such oversight is needed in order to comply with provisions of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty requiring countries to provide “authorization and continuing supervision” of activities carried out by its citizens in space.

The bill also addresses concerns in the remote sensing industry over long delays in the current licensing process. Under the bill, authority for licensing such spacecraft would be moved to the US Department of Commerce’s Office of Space Commerce, combining the existing office of the same name with the NOAA office that licenses remote sensing satellites.

The office would have 60 days from the receipt of a completed application to either issue a permit or deny the application, with a permit automatically granted if the office does not make a ruling at the end of the 60 days.

Such legislative action will be in parallel with the re-examination of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) currently underway in order to enable US commercial space firms to sell their products internationally.

When entering a new frontier, it never hurts to establish a few rules of the road.
Brian Orlotti.

Brian Orlotti is a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Support our Patreon Page