WASHINGTON — An industry group said it opposes a White House proposal to regulate new space activities, arguing it could be burdensome and confusing for companies and agencies.
The November 27 letter from the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) to the chairs and members of the House Science Committee and Senate Commerce Committee, obtained by SpaceNews, comes as the House committee prepares to resume consideration of a bill with an alternative approach to what is often called mission authorization .
The proposal from the White House National Space Council, released on November 15, would divide responsibilities for commercial space activities not currently regulated by other agencies between the Departments of Commerce and Transportation. The Department of Transportation, through the Federal Aviation Administration, will regulate human spaceflight activities after launch and return as well as transporting items through space or to the lunar surface. The Department of Commerce, through the Office of Space Commerce, will handle other unmanned spacecraft not regulated by the FAA, such as satellite servicing and debris removal.
“We oppose the recently released National Space Council (NSPC) proposal on this topic in its current form, which fails to take into account the points raised by CSF and many other stakeholders during NSPC hearings last year,” CSF said in its letter to Congress. .
The organization raised several concerns, including how responsibilities would be divided between the two departments and the potential for “duplicative and conflicting” requirements between trade and transport. “For some operations, it is not clear which agency will have the authority to issue the relevant license, or whether multiple licenses will be needed,” the statement said.
The group is concerned about giving additional responsibilities to the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Office without significantly increasing its budget, noting that the office is struggling to keep up with its current launch and reentry authorization. At a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee’s Space Subcommittee in October, industry officials recommended increasing that office’s budget to handle launch licensing work, without any discussion of it taking on additional responsibilities.
CSF was also concerned that the proposed mission authorization system could derail NASA’s plans to convert from the International Space Station to commercial stations by the end of the decade. “Introducing a complex and unclear regulatory regime for commercial space stations could risk leading the United States into low Earth orbit,” the letter said.
The organization said it supports proposals that would make the Office of Space Commerce the only agency to provide mission clearance, and supports a lean approach that includes “a presumption of authorization, oversight through self-certification, and strict, narrowly defined approval timelines.” And clear evaluation criteria.”
This sounds similar to what Republican leadership offered to the House Science Committee in the Commercial Space Act of 2023, which was introduced on November 2. This bill would create a “certification” process for new space activities led by the Office of Space Commerce, among others. Threads.
The committee held a preliminary hearing for the bill on November 15, which began less than an hour after the White House released its proposal to authorize the mission. Democratic members of the committee said they opposed the bill, saying they should wait to review the National Space Council’s proposal.
Committee Chairman Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Oklahoma) canceled the hearing before the final vote, citing conflicts with other votes on the House floor “and the nature of the additional information that has become available to us.” He said coding will resume some time after the Thanksgiving holiday.
The committee announced on November 28 that markup of the commercial space bill and a separate, unrelated bill will resume on November 29 at 1:30 PM ET with a final vote on both bills.
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