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Feb 05 2014

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A lot of choppin’, but no chips were flyin’

Subcommittee Meeting on revising the Commercial Space Launch Act (CSLA). Basically, they agreed to meet again to discuss.

Items on the table:

  1. Whether CSLA should be amended to give FAA authority over on-orbit operations.  Currently the FAA regulates launch and reentry, but not what happens in orbit.   Nield argued that this “gap” should be filled by allowing FAA to regulate commercial space operations in orbit in addition to its current authority.
  2. Whether the scope of FAA’s authority to regulate commercial space activities should be restricted.   Hertzfeld pointed out that FAA does not have expertise in a number of commercial space activities now under discussion.   These include asteroid mining and lunar surface operations, yet some groups are looking to the FAA for guidance on what is allowed.   The United States is liable for activities of its non-governmental entities under the Outer Space Treaty, and Hertzfeld made the case for Congress to define the jurisdictional limits of CSLA and consider how to allocate regulatory authority to other agencies with appropriate expertise.
  3. How to enable more flexibility on the FAA’s part to allow companies with experimental permits to continue testing once they have a launch license.   Substantial discussion took place over the distinction between an experimental permit and a launch license and what companies can do with one or the other.
  4. Whether the federal government should preempt state governments regarding legal definition of the informed consent rules for spaceflight participants (passengers).  Several states have passed laws dictating what passengers must be told before boarding a flight, Hertzfeld said, but the wording is different.  He suggested the federal government might consider passing a national law that preempts state law to ensure adequate protection for passengers and that companies are competing in different states on a level playing field.

My opinions:
FAA’s duties should end with ensuring airspace around a spaceport at the time of launch are cleared. NASA should have launch and orbit oversight as soon as liftoff occurs.

Generally, less regulation and less laws are better. Why not let the insurance agencies pull the states together in a working group and concur on the proper wording of what passengers should be told before launch? Why does Congress have to pass a law to do this when they’re not the experts?

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2014/02/05/a-lot-of-choppin-but-no-chips-were-flyin/

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