UPDATE: The full House approved the measure by a vote of 376 to 5. So, it’s now a matter of whether Congress will approve the House’s 1-year extension or a 3-year extension being promoted by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL).
The House Science Committee has approved a one-year extension of the launch liability indemnification law. Under the measure, commercial launch providers must cover third-party losses up to $500 million. The government will step in to pay any losses from $500 million to $1.5 billion. Anything above that level reverts back to the company.
The measure now goes to the full House. Sen. Bill Nelson is working on his own bill for a three-year extension of the liability law. Those measure will have to be reconciled in a conference committee.
Washington, D.C. (House Science Committee PR) – A bipartisan group of Science, Space, and Technology Committee leaders today introduced a bill to extend for one year a commercial space transportation risk-sharing and liability regime that was established by Congress in 1988 with passage of the Commercial Space Launch Act Amendments.
The Space Launch Liability Indemnification Extension Act (H.R. 3547) extends provisions of the Commercial Space Launch Act Amendments, which cover third-party liability for licensed commercial space launches. The bipartisan bill was introduced by Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), and Space Subcommittee Ranking Member Donna Edwards (D-Md.).
Chairman Smith: “The commercial space industry offers improvements to the quality of life for every person on the planet. America has always been a nation of innovators and explorers. We must remain on the forefront of new discoveries and technologies. While a longer extension would have been preferable, this bipartisan compromise bill will at least provide temporary stability to our commercial space industry by protecting companies against third party liability costs. This important protection is similar to what other nations provide and enables our space industry to remain competitive.”
Ranking Member Johnson: “The fact that we are staring at yet another expiration of the risk sharing provisions established in the Commercial Space Launch Act Amendments should not and must not detract us from the greater goal of examining this and other commercial space issues comprehensively. I am pleased to join Chairman Smith, Space Subcommittee Ranking Member Edwards, and Space Subcommittee Chair Palazzo in providing a clean, one-year extension to the third party indemnification provisions. This extension will allow the Committee to conduct more hearings to consider whether any changes to commercial space legislation are needed.”
Subcommittee Chairman Palazzo: “The commercial space industry has been invaluable to our nation’s successes in the past, and the future continues to look very bright. Our commercial space partners have played a valuable role in keeping us internationally competitive. In turn, we must continue to support the extension of the current risk-sharing and liability regime and provide as much certainty as possible for the U.S. launch market. While I would prefer a longer extension for indemnification authority, I welcome my colleagues’ support for this critical legislation.”
Subcommittee Ranking Member Edwards: “I am committed to working with Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Johnson and Subcommittee Chairman Palazzo in providing a clean one year extension of the Commercial Launch Indemnification provision. It is my hope that over the next year this Committee will hold the kind of oversight hearings necessary to provide the Commercial Space industry with the necessary certainty with respect to indemnification. We can only succeed in this effort if we hear from the Federal Aviation Administration and other experts to fully understand the future environment and climate with respect to commercial activity. I fully support a clean one-year extension to provide us the opportunity to perform our due diligence.”
The bill can be found here.