House Passes Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act

Lamar Smith

The House passed a measure on Tuesday designed to create a ‘one-stop shop’ for commercial space companies.

The American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017 invests oversight authority in the Department of Commerce’s Office of Space Commerce.

A key element of the bill is the reform and simplification of the regulatory process that covers remote sensing. The measure requires the office to approve or reject an application for a space object to launch.

“The bill establishes a favorable legal and policy environment for free enterprise with maximum certainty and minimum burden for stakeholders,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who introduced the legislation and chairs the House Science Committee. “With this innovative legislation, we position the American space industry as a leader.

“New space operators would now be incentivized to set up shop on American ground and allow the United States to maintain and adhere to our international obligations as well as improving our national security,” Smith added. “This enterprising bill provides an efficient, transparent, and streamlined structure for authorizing and supervising future space activities to create the path for future exploration of the final frontier.”

The bill creates a Private Space Activity Advisory Committee to analyze the effectiveness of the the office’s operations, identify problems, and provide recommendations to the Commerce Department and Congress on policies and practices.

Space companies and industry groups praised the act in a press release issued on Tuesday.

“The member companies and institutions of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation are in strong agreement with all of the goals and most of the key elements of your legislation: significant reform of the Commerce Department’s obsolete, burdensome, and dysfunctional regime for licensing commercial remote sensing satellites is especially welcome,” said federation president Eric Stallmer.

Report: Nield Departure from FAA Linked to Space Deregulation Push

FAA AST’s George Nield

The Wall Street Journal reports that George Nield’s decision to retire as head of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST) at the end of March is related to dissatisfaction over the pace of deregulating space activities.

But Mr. Nield’s leaving, according to industry and government officials, was prompted at least partly by White House and cabinet-level criticism that his initiatives to ease licensing procedures for rocket launches are proceeding too slowly. Members of the White House Space Council, a senior policy-making group, and the Transportation Department’s deputy secretary have expressed displeasure about the pace of change, these officials said.

The retirement, which was a surprise to some industry officials, also comes in the face of escalating pressure by budding commercial-space ventures to streamline federal rules, cutting the time and expense of obtaining launch licenses and approvals to operate spacecraft in orbit and beyond.

Mr. Nield’s decision could end up accelerating moves by top FAA officials, along with other parts of President Donald Trump’s administration, to ease or roll back regulations covering everything from earth-observation satellites to lunar landers to eventually mining minerals on asteroids.

Last week, the White House policy group chose the Commerce Department to serve as the main catalyst to promote U.S. commercial space ventures, effectively taking that role away from the FAA. During internal administration debates leading up to that public meeting, FAA critics pushed to strip the agency of authority over launch licensing, according to two people familiar with the details.

Mr. Nield’s office, which ultimately answers to the Transportation secretary, retained that responsibility but ended up with overall reduced stature.

Read the full story.

NOAA’s GOES-S to Boost Weather Forecast Accuracy for Western U.S., Alaska, Hawaii

The GOES-S satellite being lowered into a thermal vacuum chamber. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

More detailed observations will improve marine, aviation forecasts and wildfire detection

WASHINGTON, DC. (NOAA PR) — NOAA is three days away from launching GOES-S, its newest geostationary weather satellite that will begin providing faster, more accurate data to track storm systems, lightning, wildfires, dense fog, and other hazards that threaten the western U.S., Hawaii, and Alaska.

“The GOES-S satellite will join GOES-16 and NOAA-20 as NOAA continues to upgrade its satellite fleet,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “The latest GOES addition will provide further insight and unrivaled accuracy into severe weather systems and wildfires in the western United States.”

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National Space Council Approves 4 Recommendations on Regulatory Reform

WASHINGTON, DC (White House PR) — Vice President Mike Pence will provide policy recommendations to the President to streamline the regulatory environment for commercial space companies. At the second National Space Council Meeting, the council agreed on the following four recommendations to reform the commercial space regulatory frameworks at the Departments of Transportation and Commerce:

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Senate Appropriators Reject Trump’s Cut to Weather Satellite Budget

The Senate Appropriations Committee has rejected a proposal by the Trump Administration for a significant funding in a key NOAA weather satellite program.

Senate appropriators have provided $419 million for the Polar Follow-on (PFO) program for fiscal year 2018 (FY 2018). The program is aimed on developing two Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) spacecraft to follow two already funded JPSS satellites.  The JPSS-1 satellite is scheduled for launch later this year.

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Smith Introduces American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017

Lamar Smith

WASHINGTON (House Science Committee PR) – U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today introduced H.R. 2809, the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017.

The American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017 simplifies and strengthens the outdated space-based remote sensing regulatory system. At the same time, this bill enhances U.S. compliance with international obligations, improves national security and removes regulatory barriers facing new and innovative space companies.

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AIA Policy Recommendations for Improving U.S. Space Competitiveness


Engine for Growth:
Analysis and Recommendations for U.S. Space Industry Competitiveness

Aerospace Industries Association
May 2017
[Full Report]

Policy Recommendations
for Strengthening U.S. Space Competitiveness

1. Level the Playing Field

Provide a responsive regulatory environment for commercial space activities. The list of commercial space activities is varied and growing, ranging from traditional applications such as satellite telecommunications to emerging ones like space resource utilization. At the same time, the U.S. space industry is governed by multiple federal agencies with disparate regulatory interests, including the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Aviation Administration and Departments of State and Commerce. These agencies often suffer from funding and staffi ng shortages, a situation that creates bottlenecks in licensing processes and slows responsiveness to technological and market changes. The new Administration should work closely with Congress to ensure that the appropriate space regulatory agencies are fully resourced and staffed.
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Smith, Babin Examine Policy Governing Indian Launch Vehicles

Lamar Smith
Lamar Smith

WASHINGTON (House Science Committee PR) – Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-Texas) yesterday sent letters to four senior officials following up on requests for information about the current U.S. policy governing the export of U.S. commercial satellites for launch on Indian launch vehicles.

On July 6 Chairmen Smith and Babin wrote Director of Office of Science and Technology Policy John Holdren, Secretary of State John Kerry, United States Trade Representative Michael Froman, and U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, seeking this information.

Yesterday’s letters reiterate requests for a briefing and documentation on the current U.S. policy. The letters can be found here.

Harnessing the Small Satellite Revolution

Members of the NASA Ames Nodes Integration & Test team ready to integrate the Nodes 1 and 2 spacecraft (forefront) into the Nanoracks dispenser.(Credit: NASA)
Members of the NASA Ames Nodes Integration & Test team ready to integrate the Nodes 1 and 2 spacecraft (forefront) into the Nanoracks dispenser.(Credit: NASA)

by Steve Fetter and Tom Kalil
White House OSTP

Today, astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly are visiting the White House to talk to the President about developing innovative new space technologies. One critical area for technology development is making satellites more affordable, adaptable, and adept at providing the sorts of real-time information that will help advance knowledge out in space and on Earth.

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AIA Commercial Space Competitiveness Strategy for the 21st Century

aia_horizon
Commercial Space Competitiveness Strategy for the 21st Century
Aerospace Industries Association

The United States was the leader in space for much of the early Space Age after initial Soviet successes. From the development of the Saturn V rocket and the Apollo Lunar landing program, to development of the first communications satellites and the Global Positioning System, the U.S. has been the primary driver of both the exploration and commercial utilization of space.

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House Science Committee Approves Commerce Department Space Measures

Capitol Building
Although members of the House Science Committee clashed on asteroid mining and FAA regulating on Wednesday, they did manage to approve two commercial measures with bi-partisan support.

Sponsored by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), the Commercial Remote Sensing Act would require the Commerce Department to produce annual reports on actions taken relating to remote sensing. The information would include lists of applicants, applications approved and denied, and related data.

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House Science Committee to Mark Up 4 Space Measures Wednesday

Capitol Building
The House Science Committee is back in action on Wednesday at 2 p.m. EDT, marking up four bills focused on commercial space. The measures include:

The Office of Space Commerce Act would rename the Department of Commerce’s Office of Space Commercialization to the Office of Space Commerce. The bill by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) also would add the following responsibilities to the office’s mandate:

“(1) foster the conditions for the economic growth and technological advancement of the United States space commerce industry;

‘‘(2) coordinate space commerce policy issues and actions within the Department of Commerce;

‘‘(3) represent the Department of Commerce in the development of United States policies and in negotiations with foreign countries to promote United States space commerce;

“(4) promote the advancement of United States geospatial technologies related to space commerce, in cooperation with relevant interagency working groups; and

“(5) provide support to Federal Government organizations working on Space-Based Positioning Navigation, and Timing policy, including the National Coordination Office for Space-Based Position, Navigation, and Timing.’’

Sponsored by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), the Commercial Remote Sensing Act would require the Commerce Department to produce annual reports on licenses issued to commercial space companies. The department also would be required to submit a report to Congress on any statutory changes required to protect the nation’s remote sensing technology base and national security.

UT at Brownsville Gets $10 Million for Space Commercialization Efforts

Elon Musk (center) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry break ground on a new launch complex. (Credit: Texas Governor's Office)
Elon Musk (center) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry break ground on a new launch complex. (Credit: Texas Governor’s Office)

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Gov. Rick Perry has announced a combined investment of $9 million from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund and The University of Texas System to create a powerful research and technology commercialization partnership that will create limitless possibilities for South Texas.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker has also announced that the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding $1.2 million to the University of Texas at Brownsville. The EDA investment will help build a high-tech business incubation facility that will spur new business development associated with the region’s growing space industry cluster, according to the grantee.

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