August 14, 2022

I’M NOT FILLED WITH CONFIDENCE: Harris says U.S. to update commercial space regulations.

Harris did not elaborate on specific regulatory issues the National Space Council will take up at its next meeting. However, one longstanding issue has been determining what agency or agencies will have responsibility for authorization and continuing supervision of commercial space activities required by Article 6 of the Outer Space Treaty. While those responsibilities are understood for existing industries like satellite communications and remote sensing, they are less clear for emerging commercial markets like space stations, satellite servicing and lunar missions.

“I applaud the vice president’s leadership to address the rules of the road for commercial space. Specifically, industry needs a clear and efficient process for providing continuing supervision of private sector activities as required by the Outer Space Treaty,” Mike Gold, executive vice president for civil space and external affairs at Redwire, told SpaceNews. “This process must encourage innovation while providing the government with the information necessary to preserve and protect the space environment.”

There have been previous efforts to address Article 6 oversight. The Obama administration pursued a “mission authorization” concept that would have been handled by the Federal Aviation Administration’s commercial space transportation office, but didn’t complete the effort before the end of the administration. The Trump administration moved to have that responsibility go to the Office of Space Commerce within the Department of Commerce, but made little progress.

The FAA isn’t crazy about regulating space (it thinks of itself as about airplanes), but like all bureaucracies it will fight bitterly to keep its responsibilities from being given to someone else.

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