Senate Passes Space Frontier Act

U.S. Senators Ted Cruz, Bill Nelson, and Ed Markey applauded the Senate passage of their bipartisan Space Frontier Act by a unanimous vote of approval. 

In July, Senators Cruz, Nelson, and Markey introduced this legislation to fortify America’s leadership in space exploration, continue operations for the International Space Station through 2030, and reign in overreaching regulations to support further development of the commercial space sector.

"Reforms in this bill will help commercial space companies get to two launches a day in Florida," Senator Nelson of Florida said. 

"As a result," Nelson added, "jobs will continue to soar as rockets roar off the launch pads. Extending the life of the International Space Station well into the next decade, as this bill does, will also ensure America remains a leader in space exploration."

Among other things, the measure sustains the utilization of the International Space Station and supports full and complete utilization of the International Space Station through at least 2030.

It also expresses support for maintaining a national lab to benefit the scientific community and promote commerce in space.

The measure further modernizes launch and re-entry regulations.

The Office of Commercial Space Transportation was previously located inside the Office of the Secretary at the Department of Transportation before being placed within the Federal Aviation Administration. The Space Frontier Act establishes an Assistant Secretary for Commercial Space Transportation within DoT, elevating the profile of commercial space issues within the Department.

The act also requires the Department of Transportation to issue a rule-making to overhaul existing regulations within one year, and directs that the revised regulatory framework be focused around clear, high-level performance requirements applicable to both reusable and expendable systems; and it encourages DoT to use its existing waiver and safety approval authorities to streamline the existing regulatory process while a more comprehensive regulatory overhaul is in work.

Finally, the measure overhauls Earth observation regulations.

Since they were first created in the early 1990s, the regulations for Earth observation systems have failed to keep pace with a maturing industry. Applications frequently get stuck in an ineffective interagency consultation process which has led the Department of Commerce to fail to meet its statutory requirement to act within 120 days on Earth observation satellite license applications.

The Space Frontier Act repeals the existing legal framework for Earth observation regulations and creates a new framework at the Department of Commerce that focuses on managing risk to national security and preventing harmful interference to other space activities.

It also provides a streamlined 90-day process for other agencies to review applications. 

In line with this process,  non-responsiveness is treated as assent to the application.

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