House Measure Would Extend Commercial Spaceflight Learning Period by 8 Years

Rep. Kevin McCarthy
Rep. Kevin McCarthy

The House Science Committee is set to mark up legislation on Wednesday introduced by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) that would extend the commercial spaceflight learning period for another eight years while requiring a series of progress reports on safety from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The proposed extension to the end of 2023 is three years longer than one in a measure introduced in the Senate. The FAA’s Office of Commercial Spaceflight (FAA AST) wants the moratorium on regulating the industry to expire as scheduled at the end of September.

McCarthy’s Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 (or SPACE Act of 2015) also contains several other key provisions, including the extension of launch liability indemnification cost sharing provisions and a rule change that would allow companies to hold experimental permits and launch licenses simultaneously.

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Virgin Galactic Launch License on Hold While Legislative Fix is Sought

SpaceShipTwo on final approach during a glide flight on Jan. 17, 2014. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
SpaceShipTwo on final approach during a glide flight on Jan. 17, 2014. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Galactic’s application for a launch license for SpaceShipTwo has been on hold since January while legislators in Washington attempt to fix a quirk in the Federal Aviation Administration’s regulations governing licenses and experimental permits, the company said.

The specific issue involves a provision in the law that makes an experimental permit invalid once a launch license is issued for a vehicle, according to Will Pomerantz, Virgin Galactic’s vice president for special projects. Flight testing of SpaceShipTwo and its WhiteKnightTwo mother ship is continuing at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

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McCarthy Backs Commercial Space But Opposes Ex-Im Bank Re-authorization

Rep. Kevin McCarthy
Rep. Kevin McCarthy

Jeff Foust has an interesting analysis about efforts by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to prevent the re-authorization of the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank of the United States, which has helped to finance the exports of a number of commercial space companies.

Although McCarthy has introduced legislation to streamline commercial spaceflight regulations for commercial spaceflight companies that have yet to fly any passengers, he views government-backed financing of exports that has helped profitable space companies as unnecessary.

In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” McCarthy said he would vote against reauthorization of Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank of the United States, which supports financing of exports of products and services created by U.S. companies.

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Political Update: McCarthy Moves Up, Knight to Vie for House Seat

Rep. Kevin McCarthy
Rep. Kevin McCarthy

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), a supporter of commercial space legislation, has moved up in the leadership of House of Representatives. Meanwhile, another commercial space supporter, California State Sen. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale), will be competing to represent California in the Congressional district that adjoins McCarthy’s district.

McCarthy’s elevation to the position of House Majority Leader followed the defeat of Eric Cantor (R-VA), who lost a primary challenge earlier this month. The loss meant Cantor would not be able to stand for re-election as the Republican Party’s candidate in Virginia’s 7th District.

The Majority Leader is the second-ranked position in the House, with the responsibility of scheduling the legislative calendar and managing House committees.

McCarthy — who represents the 23rd Congressional district that includes Mojave, Rosamond, California City and Edwards Air Force Base —  had previously served as House Majority Whip. In that position, he kept track of legislation and rounded up legislators for important votes.

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New Experimental Permit Measure Introduced in Congress

Capitol Building
Sen. Martin Heinrich (R-NM) has introduced a measure that would allow experimental permits issued for commercial reusable launch vehicles to remain active after a launch license is issued for the vehicles.

Currently, the experimental permits are no longer valid after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issues a launch or re-entry license. This arrangement makes it more difficult for companies to flight test vehicles and make changes in them.

The proposed measure also broadens the definition of what is covered from “suborbital rocket design” to “suborbital rocket or rocket design.”

Heinrich’s bill is similar to the Suborbital and Orbital Advancement and Regulatory Streamlining Act (SOARS) that Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) introduced in the House in December.

McCarthy’s measure, which also includes “a demonstration project…to evaluate the benefits of using experimental aircraft for both the direct and indirect support of commercial space launch and reentry activities,” is currently before the House Subcommittee on Space.

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McCarthy and Virgin Galactic Hope Commercial Space Measure SOARS

Capitol Building
By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In a move that would have a major impact on how Virgin Galactic and other space companies operate, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has introduced legislation that would simplify the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) permitting and licensing procedures for new commercial spacecraft.

The Suborbital and Orbital Advancement and Regulatory Streamlining Act (SOARS) also would broaden the definitions of launch vehicles and launch services to include the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft and spaceflight participant training conducted aboard it.

Another section of the measure would require the FAA to undertake a three-year demonstration project “to evaluate the benefits of using experimental aircraft for both the direct and indirect support of commercial space launch and reentry activities.”

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NASA Dryden to be Renamed After Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong with the X-15 on the dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
Neil Armstrong with the X-15 on the dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

The NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base will be renamed after the late Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong under a measure that has unanimously passed by the Senate and House of Representatives.

The measure, which now goes to President Barack Obama for signature, would rename the Western Aeronautical Test Range at Edwards the Hugh L. Dryden Aeronautical Test Range. Dryden served as NASA deputy administrator from 1958 to 1965.

“I’m honored that the Senate has passed my legislation, which will now go to the President’s desk for his signature that recognizes the rich history of Neil Armstrong and Hugh Dryden in Kern County and the Antelope Valley,” said Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who sponsored the bill. “As we reflect on the achievements and legacy of these great Americans, it is exciting to see our region continue to lead the way in innovation in space exploration and aeronautical research and scientific discovery.”

McCarthy represents California’s 23rd Congressional District, which includes NASA Dryden and Edwards Air Force Base. Armstrong, who died in 2012, worked as a test pilot at the desert facility, where he conducted major testing on the X-15 rocket plane.

McCarthy had eight co-sponsors of the measure, including Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, a Republican who represents California’s 25th Congressional District that includes the southern part of the Antelope Valley where Edwards and NASA Dryden are located.

Steve Knight Weighs Run for Congress

State Sen. Steve Knight
State Sen. Steve Knight

California State Sen. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale), a key supporter of commercial space, says he will run for Congress next year in the 25th District should the current office holder, Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Santa Clarita), decides to retire, the Antelope Valley Press reported today.

McKeon, 75, has not announced his plans, but there is widespread speculation in political circles that he will elect to step down next year rather than seek another two-year term, the newspaper reported.

The state senator, whose father William J. “Pete” Knight flew the X-15 rocket plane, has been a key backer of commercial space measures in the California Legislature. He introduced a limited liability bill designed to protect commercial space providers from passenger lawsuits that was approved with revisions. He also has introduced several other commercial space bills now being considered by legislators.

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Stu Witt, Dennis Tito to Testify at House Space Subcommittee Hearing

Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stu Witt (Credit: Bill Deaver)
Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stu Witt (Credit: Bill Deaver)

Mojave Air and Space Port General Manager and CEO Stu Witt will testify along with space tourist and Inspiration Mars Chairman Dennis Tito at a House Space Subcommittee hearing concerning commercial space on Wednesday.

Patricia Cooper, president of the Satellite Industry Association, will join Witt and Tito on the hearing’s second panel.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), whose district includes the Mojave spaceport, will be on the first panel.

The hearing will be webcast live beginning at 10 a.m. EST.

Subcommittee on Space Hearing –  Commercial Space
Subcommittee on Space
2318 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515
Nov 20, 2013 10:00am

Witnesses

Panel I

  • The Honorable Kevin McCarthy, Member, Majority Whip, U.S. House of Representatives

Panel II

  • Ms. Patricia Cooper, President, Satellite Industry Association
  • Mr. Stuart Witt, CEO and General Manager, Mojave Air and Space Port
  • Mr. Dennis Tito, Chairman, Inspiration Mars Foundation

McCarthy and Knight Urge Passage of California Spacecraft Liability Expansion

State Sen. Steve Knight
State Sen. Steve Knight

U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, and State Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, have penned an op-ed for the Sacramento Bee promoting an effort to expand liability protections to spacecraft manufacturers and equipment suppliers:

Last year, the California Legislature passed the Space Flight Liability and Immunity Act, and Gov. Jerry Brown signed it into law, assisting space tourism firms by providing limited indemnification. The California Senate is now considering Senate Bill 415 to extend the liability limitation to manufacturers and suppliers, which is critical to ensure that California stays competitive with states such as New Mexico and Texas.

If we are truly committed to economic prosperity, we need to continue to reduce over-regulation and over-litigation. As Californians, rather than allowing California’s unfriendly business climate to restrict opportunity and increase costs that stifle future innovation, we must instead champion solutions that create a new business climate that preserves the California Dream, where an individual can still dream big, take risks and make the impossible a reality.

A legislative committee held a public hearing last week and took testimony on the issue. Legislators have delayed consideration of the bill until January 2014.

Read the full essay.

Congressmen Seek to Rename NASA Dryden After Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong with the X-15 on the dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

November 29, 2012 – Washington D.C. (Press Release) – Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon and Congressman Kevin McCarthy today announced legislation to redesignate the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Dryden Flight Research Center as the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center and the Western Aeronautical Test Range as the Hugh L. Dryden Aeronautical Test Range. Joining Congressman McCarthy in introducing this legislation are Congressman Buck McKeon, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Congressman Ken Calvert, Congressman Lamar Smith, Congressman Steven Palazzo, and Congressman Adam Schiff.

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