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Congress & Commercial Space: Supporters, Foes, and Fence Sitters

By Keith Cowing
NASA Watch
May 6, 2011
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Commercial Space Transportation: Industry Trends and Key Issues Affecting Federal Oversight and International Competitiveness
“Since GAO reported on the commercial space launch industry in 2006 and 2009, the industry has evolved and moved further toward space tourism. Commercial space tourism promises to make human space travel available to the public for the first time. In addition, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) plans to use private companies to transport cargo, and eventually personnel, to the International Space Station after NASA retires the space shuttle later in 2011. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversees the safety of commercial space launches, licensing and monitoring the safety of such launches and of commercial spaceports (sites for launching spacecraft), and promotes the industry.”
Subcommittee Evaluates FAA Commercial Space Flight Budget
“The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 included two related provisions that were the subject of much of today’s discussion: the first authorized AST to regulate commercial human space flight launch systems; the second prohibited AST from regulating commercial human space flight for eight years in order to give space tourism companies an opportunity to design, develop and operate new and experimental launch systems. December 2012 marks the end of the eight-year regulatory ban, and the debate centered around the need for extending the ban.”
Democrats Seek Answers on Scope / Timing of FAA Plans to Regulate Safety of Commercial Space Transportation
“After the hearing, Representative Edwards said: “We still need to better understand the implications of having FAA operate as both the regulator and promoter of commercial space transportation safety. As NASA moves forward, they will need to work closely with private industry to rigorously address the issues of safety, regulatory authority, and liability in commercial space transportation to ensure the well-being of the public in space, near-space, and on the ground.”
Hearing Charter: Office of Commercial Space Transportation’s Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Request
“To date only one company, Virgin Galactic, is known to be actively testing a prototype sub- orbital commercial human spaceflight vehicle. SpaceShipTwo, a larger version of the Ansari X-Prize winner, is undergoing unpowered atmospheric testing in California. According to the company, hundreds of interested purchasers have already placed down-payments with Virgin Galatic for the privilege of flying on their spacecraft once commercial flights get underway.”
Henry Hertzfeld Statement
“Until recently, the OCST focus for human space flight regulations has been on sub orbital vehicles and passengers. The experimental permit period will end soon without any database on flights, safety, or passengers. This experimental period should be continued, but instead of an arbitrary period of years being designated for the sunset of that provision, other tests should be developed to determine when the regulations should be reevaluated by Congress.”
Statement of George Nield, Associate FAA Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation
“Throughout the past 50 years, NASA has become the world leader in human spaceflight, amassing vast experience and a wonderful track record in space travel. There is no equal. Similarly, during the past 50 years, the FAA has achieved a stunning record of safety in commercial aviation. We are now leveraging that half-century of experience and safety acumen in our regulation and oversight of the commercial space transportation industry.”

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.