Nov 25 2015

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Time to stake my claim on an asteroid

President Signs FY2016 NDAA, Commercial Space Bills Into Law. Two take aways:

Among other things, the bill (NDAA) limits the number of Russian RD-180 rocket engines that the United Launch Alliance (ULA) can obtain for launching national security satellites. The NDAA is an authorization bill that sets policy and recommends funding levels. Only appropriations committees actually provide funds and that step has yet to take place. Strictly speaking, appropriations committees are not supposed to set policy, but powerful members of the Senate Appropriations Committee disagree with the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) on this issue and a battle is brewing in particular between SASC Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), a high ranking member of the appropriations committee. ULA builds its rockets in Decatur, AL. That is one of many issues that could hold up agreement on a full-year appropriations bill to replace the short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) that expires on December 11.

So Sen. Shelby, Crony Capitalist. Of course. My money is on McCain being more ornery than any ten senators put together and keeping the Russians out of ULA.


The Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, H.R. 2262, cleared Congress on November 16. It affects a broad range of commercial space issues, but is getting a lot of publicity because of a provision that grants property rights to materials that U.S. companies mine from asteroids. The bill does not allow U.S. companies to own asteroids, only whatever materials they mine from them. Under the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, the Moon and other celestial bodies, like asteroids, are not subject to national appropriation and governments are required to authorize and supervise the actions of non-government entities (e.g. companies).

H.R. 2262 includes an important phrase that the rights must be consistent with applicable law and U.S. international obligations, which include treaties. The exact wording of the provision is: “A United States citizen engaged in commercial recovery of an asteroid resource or a space resource under this chapter shall be entitled to any asteroid resource or space resource obtained, including to possess, own, transport, use, and sell the asteroid resource or space resource obtained in accordance with applicable law, including the international obligations of the United States.” It remains to be seen how the other 102 countries that are signatories to the Outer Space Treaty will react, but U.S. companies at least have some assurance that the U.S. government will back them.

I hereby declare the Outer Space Treaty dead. Patooey on it…

A huge win for the future of space exploration and colonizations.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2015/11/25/time-to-stake-my-claim-on-an-asteroid/

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