Introduction

Today, commercial actors are increasingly the predominant users of outer space, a stark contrast to the Cold War era of the “space race” characterized by near-total government control over funding and management of space activities. Far from its past use as an arena for superpowers competing for geopolitical supremacy, outer space is evolving to be a domain in which private actors, using private capital, cooperate and compete for business; and, from their headquarters and factories on Earth, either innovate and profit or fail.

The continuing commercialization of outer space may be ascribed to many factors, not least of which are advancements in technologies, reductions in costs, and emerging capabilities and opportunities (along with corresponding business plans). Standing at the fore of the growing and globalizing commercial space sector is the United States, where the industry is experiencing unprecedented growth through an influx of private investment and novel research and development. The industry’s maturation is being guided by the anticipation that new markets, both government and commercial, will soon be accessible and vibrant in the “final frontier.”

The industry’s trajectory may be explained by its economics, board rooms, billionaire patrons, and rocket scientists. Yet just as important an influence – if perhaps more subtle – has been the “guiding hand” of government policy. The United States’ government has, for decades, pursued a generally consistent national policy of enabling and fostering the development of a robust commercial space sector. This has been implemented and is reflected in all facets of Federal and state power – White House policy guidance, statements, and decisions; agency regulations; judicial adjudications; and state tax codes and incentive programs, to name just a few.

It’s also reflected in federal statute. Beginning in the mid-1980s and continuing to this day, a series of laws – the Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984; the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 1988; the Land Remote Sensing Policy Act of 1992; the Commercial Space Act of 1998; the Commercial Space Transportation Competitiveness Act of 2000; the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004; and the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015 – have progressively established and updated the statutory basis and authority for licensing and regulating commercial space activity. By tracing the evolution of commercial space statute through successive legislation, a picture of the sector’s policy priorities, challenges, and interests begins to emerge.

Far from a comprehensive study, this essay is a brief survey of the decades-long evolution in statute governing the United States’ commercial space activities. It relies extensively on the Congressional record, reports, public testimony, and other available primary sources to piece together the positions, debate, and details of the time. To accommodate the reader’s interest in further insights, these sources are heavily cited throughout this piece. Limited in scope, the essay omits other key legislative endeavors – particularly those related to NASA, the Department of Defense, and the privatization of satellite communications services – which have contained provisions affecting, sometimes profoundly, the commercial space sector. The reader and author will need to rely on a more exhaustive study to tell in full the rich story of commercial space law, its Congressional proponents and opponents, and the many on and off the Hill who have played a hand in its creation.

Licensing Launches – The Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984

The origins of the United States’ commercial space statute can be traced to 1984, with the passage of the “Commercial Space Launch Act.” This legislation established an authorization and licensing regime for private space launches; subsequent commercial space bills have largely built off and amended the language produced through this “organic law” act.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, only the Department of Defense and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) provided launches from American soil; as private companies and foreign companies began producing and purchasing satellites in the 1970s, they had to contract through the government for launch. The Space Shuttle, introduced in the early 1980s, was intended to take all American satellites into orbit; however, it became clear that the Shuttle’s flight schedule could not meet growing launch demand.[i]

In 1982, the first private launch of a rocket took place in the United States. The process required to gain government authorization for the launch –required by the Outer Space Treaty, of which the United States is a party – was convoluted and time-consuming, as no agency had been designated with the authority for launch licensing.[ii] A year later, President Reagan issued a directive that the government would facilitate the commercialization of launch activities in the United States.[iii]

Concurrently, interest was growing in the Congress on the commercialization of space activities. In 1981, the Congressional Space Caucus was formed, led by Congressmen Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and Daniel Akaka (D-HI). Between Gingrich’s personal affinity for space and Akaka’s parochial interests, the Caucus grew to include a substantial membership and became a leading force on Congressional focus on space throughout the 1980s.[iv] The commercialization of space launch was an early and primary focus of the Caucus; in 1982 and again in early 1983, Rep. Akaka introduced the “Space Commerce Act,” which would have designated the Department of Commerce as the authorized lead agency for licensing launches.[v] The bill had heavy co-sponsorship by colleagues on the Caucus.[vi]

However, as the Space Commerce Act waited for floor action, the Department of Transportation (DOT) began to press a case that – given its experience as a deregulator – it should be the lead agency for licensing launch, and was successful in convincing that point to the President; in November 1983, he announced his intention that DOT be given the role.[vii] Although the Space Commerce Act had been reintroduced in September – incorporating the House Subcommittee on Space Science and Applications’ amendments to-date – as the “Commercial Space Launch Act,” the House had signaled that it would defer final consideration on the bill pending this decision, having received pushback from the Office of Management and Budget.[viii],[ix] Following President Reagan’s announcement, the Subcommittee received testimony from the Secretary of Transportation on how the Department of Transportation envisioned its role as the lead licensing agency; based on this testimony, the Commercial Space Launch Act was redrafted and circulated to the Administration for comment.

In February of 1984, President Reagan signed an Executive Order formally designating DOT as the lead agency. DOT had for months been socializing the concept with the Congress, to mixed reception.[x] Nonetheless, by 1984, both the Senate and House expressed growing approval of the move. However, they noted the need for Congressional codification that would eliminate the possibility of Executive redirection or restructuring of the emerging licensing arrangement – a view shared by industry.[xi],[xii]

Throughout the spring of 1984, the Subcommittee and full Science Committee met several times to mark-up the bill – responding to unfavorable comments on particular sections received from NASA, DOT, and FCC in January – and advanced it to the full House on May 23rd. In June, the House favorably passed the bill by voice vote.[xiii] In the Senate, a companion bill was introduced by Senator Trible (R-VA) in August, with a hearing held in September that largely reaffirmed the need for a lead agency to license launches and the proposed approach.[xiv] On October 3rd, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation advanced the referred Commercial Space Launch Act – as an amendment in the nature of a substitute, reflecting compromises between the Senate and House versions – and the full Senate passed the bill on the 9th.[xv]  On October 30, the bill became law.[xvi]

While most significant for laying an enabling regulatory groundwork for commercial launch activities in the United States, the Commercial Space Launch Act also contained other provisions of relevance for the budding commercial space industry. This included sections encouraging the use and acquisition of excess launch facilities by the private sector, and a requirement that licensed launch operators purchase and maintain liability insurance at a level deemed necessary by the Secretary of Transportation.

Establishing Indemnification – The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 1988

The Commercial Space Launch Act established the foundation for commercial launch activities in the United States, but the industry was slow to materialize in the years that followed. The Space Shuttle continued to be used as the principal vehicle for commercial satellite launches. Then, in January 1986, the Shuttle Challenger was lost in a launch accident; in response, President Reagan announced in August that the Shuttle would no long be used for commercial launches – in part, a move to incentivize the development of commercial launch vehicles.[xvii]

In September of 1987, the House Subcommittee on Space Science and Applications held several hearings on the state of the commercial launch industry. Industry representatives testified that insurance requirements for space launch were a particularly significant barrier to entry into the launch market.[xviii] The Commercial Space Launch Act had given the Department of Transportation authority to set minimum insurance levels for liability and government property damage. However, there was outstanding uncertainty about whether insurance would be available to cover such risks – as written in the Senate’s later report, an uncertainty accentuated by government requirement to assume all risks insurable and non-insurable.[xix] The Congress also noted the emergence of a European launch competitor, Arianespace, which led the global market share of commercial satellite launch – Arianespace was shielded from the financial consequences of unlimited liability by the promise of European government-backed indemnification.[xx]

In response to the testimony received, Representative Bill Nelson (D-FL), the Chairman of the Subcommittee who had expressed enthusiasm for the President’s decision to commercialize satellite launches,[xxi] drafted and introduced the “Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act” in December of 1987, with 25 co-sponsors. The bill sought to establish a workable risk-sharing regime between industry and government – allowing launch companies, as an alternative to obtaining full liability insurance, to demonstrate sufficient responsibility to compensate claims resulting from a failure during a licensed launch, while the Department of Transportation would pay for successful claims that were not compensated by insurance.

In February of 1988, the Subcommittee held a second series of hearings on the bill, which addressed industry and Department of Defense, NASA, and Department of Transportation perspectives on insurance requirements and liability reform for commercial launch licenses.[xxii] In April, the Subcommittee considered amendments incorporating comments received from Administration and industry witnesses, rejecting tort reform but establishing reciprocal waivers of claims between launch operator and customers and subcontractors, setting maximum liability amounts, and setting maximum insurance requirements for third-party claims, damage to government property, and cross-claims. Industry would need to demonstrate liability insurance for up to $500 million, while also covering maximum probable loss of government property not to exceed $100 million. The United States government would indemnify and pay third-party claims in excess of the maximum probable loss, but not to exceed $1.5 billion, adjusted for inflation.[xxiii] As pay-out through government indemnification would require Congressional appropriation of funds, a mechanism was established within the bill to expedite passage of a compensation plan through the Congress. A “clean” bill was subsequently introduced and approved by the House Science Committee on April 21st. A month later, it was passed in the house by voice vote.[xxiv]

In the Senate, Senator Writh (D-CO), with Senators Bentsen (D-TX) and Dansforth (R-MO), introduced a companion bill in May; the Senate heard testimony from Administration officials and insurance industry representatives concerning both the House and Senate measures that month.[xxv] In October, the Senate Committee on Commerce passed the House measure with an amendment in the nature of a substitute, incorporating Senate provisions, and the full Senate passed the bill on the 14th with a voice vote. On October 21st, the House agreed, 355-1, on the Senate’s amendments.[xxvi] The bill was signed into law on November 15th, 1988.[xxvii]

While an indemnification regime for commercial launch was the primary and pressing focus of the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act, the legislation also addressed other areas of interest pertaining to commercial launch. It encouraged NASA and the Department of Defense not to preempt licensed launches from access to launch sites or property; required a study on best practices for scheduling commercial launches at government launch sites; and directed NASA to design a program to support research and development into launch system technologies.

Reforming Remote Sensing – The Land Remote Sensing Policy Act of 1992

Like commercial launch, the Congress had also taken interest in the commercialization of Earth observation services and satellites throughout the 1980s – a response to significant Executive direction and action to that effect.[xxviii] In the 1970s, NASA developed, launched, and operated the Landsat satellites to gather Earth imagery, which became particularly valuable for organizations such as the Department of Interior and the scientific community. The early 1980s saw an effort to commercialize the civil Landsat system, which culminated in the passage of the Land Remote Sensing Commercialization Act of 1984.[xxix] The Department of Commerce was given licensing authority for private Earth observation (“remote sensing”) systems, while a program was established to contract commercial operations of the Landsat systems.

However, by the early 1990s, it was becoming increasingly apparent that the commercialization effort was failing.[xxx] The Senate and the House held a series of hearings on the effort in late 1991[xxxi] and early 1992[xxxii], where witnesses and Members expressed similar concern about shortfalls in funding and the lack of a competitive marketplace materializing for Earth observation data. The House’s Science Committee had also frequently consulted with the White House’s National Space Council, which was reviewing policy options since early 1989.[xxxiii] The House and the Senate subsequently began a parallel effort on reform legislation.

In October of 1991, Rep. Brown (D-CA), Chairman of the House Science Committee, introduced the “Land Remote Sensing Act of 1992.” The bill was reported out of Committee in May, having been marked up with an amendment – in the nature of a substitute – prepared by Rep. Brown, the Science Committee’s Environment Subcommittee Chairman Scheuer (D-NY), and Rep. Walker (R-PA), which reflected suggestions made by the Administration.[xxxiv] The bill passed by the House on voice vote on June 6th.

In the Senate, Senator Pressler (R-SD) introduced the “Land Remote Sensing Policy Act of 1992” on February 27, 1992, and in August the Senate Committee on Commerce reported the bill. What followed was a series of legislative maneuvers to expedite the legislation’s passage through both chambers, to reach the President’s desk before the end of the 102nd Congress. On October 7th, the Senate incorporated the measure, through a substitute amendment, into the House’s version, which had been referred to the Senate after its passage. The Senate then passed the House version by voice vote. In the House, Rep. Brown had reintroduced the bill – incorporating the Senate’s language – on October 5th. On October 6th, the bill was discharged from the Science Committee, considered by unanimous consent on the House floor, and passed. On October 28, the President signed the bill.[xxxv]

While the Land Remote Sensing Policy Act made a number of significant changes to the civil operation and organization of the Landsat program, it largely left the licensing regime for private remote sensing systems established under the 1984 act intact. Most significant for industry was that the Land Remote Sensing Policy Act, unlike the 1984 legislation, allowed operators of private remote sensing systems to sell their data to whomever they wished at market terms – enabling the development of a competitive marketplace;[xxxvi] the 1984 act required all data to be sold at the same terms and conditions to all potential customers. A requirement was also added that the Department of Commerce respond to applications for licenses within 120 days, slightly alleviating a significant source of uncertainty for companies wishing to pursue development of a private remote sensing satellite.[xxxvii]

Reusable Rockets & Aborted Remote Sensing Overhaul – The Commercial Space Act of 1998

Following the passage of the Land Remote Sensing Policy Act in 1992, the Congress made little headway in further dedicated commercial space legislation throughout the 1990s – despite introduced bills and efforts to do so. Nonetheless, the “Congress [continued] to be interested in [commercial space] issues… with the announcement of policies intended to create a stable business environment for the commercial development of space, both the government and the commercial sector have identified areas for improvement.”[xxxviii] In 1996, toward the end of the 104th Congress, Rep. Walker introduced the “Space Commercialization Promotion Act.” The bill passed the House in September, but languished after introduction in the Senate. In May of 1997, Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Chairman of the House Science Committee, reintroduced a substantively similar bill – the “Commercial Space Act.”

Through May, the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics held three hearings regarding the bill. The first dealt with identifying improvements in the remote sensing regulatory regime to support continued growth of the sector;[xxxix] the second dealt with issues of regulation on commercial space transportation, particularly licensing emerging “reusable” rockets which could land after launch as well as in-space transportation services[xl] – witnesses agreed that a regulatory regime to license reusable rockets was necessary, though it was premature to establish one for in-space transportation;[xli] while the third also dealt with commercial remote sensing, particularly on improvements that could be made to the remote sensing policy, particularly the Land Remote Sensing Policy Act[xlii].

In June, the Subcommittee and full Committee marked-up the bill, with minor amendments being made to satisfy Administration requests.[xliii] As stated during the markup, the Committee would push ahead with provisions requiring the Departments of Defense and State to list, in the public register, its concerns related to national security and international obligations on submitted remote sensing license applications, so as to ensure further licensing transparency and certainty for the industry.[xliv] Notably, the Committee report chastised the Department of State for its “failure to appear before the Committee [during hearings on remote sensing] and offer its comments in a public forum limit the value or import that can be given to the Department’s concerns, many of which appear to be inconsistent with existing law in the Land Remote Sensing Policy Act of 1992.”[xlv]

On November 4, despite an earlier call of “no quorum” on the House floor,[xlvi] the House passed the bill by voice vote. A companion bill was introduced by Senator Graham (D-FL) on November 8, which codified Administration policy on the use of excess ballistic missiles as launch vehicles but did not include the House bill’s remote sensing provisions.[xlvii] On March 5, the Senate convened a hearing on the House’s bill.[xlviii]

On June 2, the Senate Committee on Commerce reported the bill with an amendment in the nature of a substitute – incorporating several changes, including the addition of Senator Graham’s excess ballistic missile provision. The legislation was then finalized as it “bounced” between chambers, both making minor modifications through amendments to the others’ passed version. On July 30, the Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent – significantly, to secure its passage by unanimous consent, the Senate’s version struck the Houses’ remote sensing provisions.[xlix] On October 5, the House agreed to the Senate’s amendments with its own amendment, making further minor changes; the Senate agreed to that amendment on October 8 by unanimous consent. Finally, on October 28, the bill was signed into law.[l]

As passed, the Commercial Space Act contained a series of significant overhauls to standing commercial space statute, as well as new measures to foster the continued commercial development of space.[li] It established, as policy, that the economic development of space was a priority goal for constructing the International Space Station, and required NASA to study commercial opportunities onboard and in using the International Space Station. By amending the Commercial Space Launch Act, authority was given to the DOT’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation to license commercial reentry activities, filling a regulatory gap related to – and facilitating the development of – reusable rockets that could land after launch. The bill authorized the government’s purchase of space science data and Earth remote sensing data from commercial providers, so as to offer the industry more market opportunity. It mandated that the government, to include the Department of Defense, was required – except under certain circumstances – to procure space transportation services from U.S. commercial providers, which would be treated as commercial acquisitions under federal acquisition regulations. Finally, as noted, the bill codified national policy prohibiting the use of excess intercontinental ballistic missiles as space launch vehicles.

Extending Indemnification – the Commercial Space Transportation Competitiveness Act of 2000

Without an extension, the commercial space launch risk-sharing regime established by the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 1988 was set to expire in December of 1999.                                                                        

In July of that year, Congressman Rohrabacher (R-CA), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Space, introduced the “Commercial Space Transportation Competitiveness Act” in response to FAA and industry testimony on the need for renewal to the spaceflight indemnification regime. The bill would extend indemnification for commercial space launches for 5 years – to 2004.[lii]

On July 29, the bill moved through the Science Committee, and in October it passed the House by voice vote after remarks in support by Chairman Sensenbrenner, Rep. Gordon (D-TN), and Rep. Lampson (D-TX).[liii] The bill remained in the Senate until October of 2000, when an amendment in the nature of a substitute, making minor modifications, was presented by Senator Lott (R-MS) for Senator McCain (R-AZ) – who had worked with Senators Hollings (D-SC), Frist (R-TN), and Breaux (D-LA) on the language[liv] – and agreed to by unanimous consent. On November 1, 2000, the President signed the bill into law.[lv]

While the extension of indemnification was perhaps the act’s most significant provision, it also authorized, for 3 years, appropriations for two offices with mandates to promote and regulate the commercial space sector – the Office of Commercial Space Transportation in the Department of Transportation, and the Office of Space Commercialization in the Department of Commerce. The legislation also required a report on the indemnification regime, expressing the views of NASA, the Department of Defense, the Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST), and the Office of Space Commercialization on the adequacy, effectiveness, and continuing need for liability risk sharing for commercial space launch – and whether the policy would need to be changed, perhaps towards the approach of the airline liability regime.

Regulating Human Spaceflight – The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004

A major milestone for commercial spaceflight occurred in October 2004, when the privately-funded, human-piloted SpaceShipOne spacecraft flew into space on a suborbital trajectory – the first private launch with humans onboard.[lvi] SpaceShipOne’s team had been competing in the Ansari X Prize competition, established in 1996 – by the time it won the competition, SpaceShipOne had been years in development. A unique “hybrid” vehicle, SpaceShipOne was lofted into the air by an aircraft, at which point it detached, ignited its rocket, and flew to space.[lvii]

While the X Prize and SpaceShipOne prompted predictions of a new era in commercial spaceflight, they also highlighted significant gaps in standing commercial space law and regulation. How would “hybrid” space vehicles be licensed? How would suborbital spaceflight be addressed? How would commercial human spaceflight be regulated, and what sort of safety regime would be established?

Efforts to address these questions began in June 2003, when Senator McCain and Senator Brownback (R-KN) introduced the “Commercial Space Transportation Act of 2003.” The bill aimed to extend the commercial space launch indemnification regime and mandated a report by the Secretary of Transportation on the need for a regulatory regime for suborbital vehicles.[lviii] While the bill failed to gain traction in the Senate, it prompted a joint House-Senate hearing on commercial human spaceflight.[lix] There was general consensus among witnesses that, during early stages of the commercial human space flight, customers would have to waive all claims of liability against the companies taking them into space. The witnesses also requested that Congress indemnify companies against the consequences of human launch accidents in the same manner that the federal government indemnifies launches by the traditional commercial space transportation industry.[lx]

In response to the points articulated at the hearing, Rep. Rohrabacher introduced the “Commercial Space Act of 2003” in October. In November, the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics held a second hearing, focused particularly on the newly introduced bill.[lxi] The hearing examined whether commercial human space flight should be regulated in the FAA AST, as opposed to the FAA’s Regulation and Certification Office or through office. Witnesses expressed differences in opinion across the board.[lxii]

The Commercial Space Act was soon subsumed by a more complex and developed bill also introduced by Rep. Rohrabacher, the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act, which was cosponsored by the Science Committee Chairman, Rep. Boehlert (R-NY) and Ranking Member, Rep. Gordon. The bill was reported favorably from the Committee in February 2004. On March 4, the House passed the bill, 402 – 1, though not without the threat of amendment from Rep. Luca (R-OK) and Rep. Flake (R-AZ); Flake contesting the amount of money authorized for AST under the bill, and Rep. Lucas requesting the House consider changing definitions appearing in the bill when negotiations ensued in the Senate.[lxiii],[lxiv] Both amendments were withdrawn on the House floor.[lxv]

The bill stalled in the Senate, despite Senator Inhofe (R-OK) introducing in August a companion bill, the “Space Chase Act,” which mirrored its language. While the Senate Commerce Committee took no action on the bill, bipartisan negotiations began between the staff of the House and Senate committees; the edits were extensive enough that, on November 18, Rep. Rohrabacher reintroduced the bill in the House to incorporate them.[lxvi]

A vote on Rep. Rohrabacher’s newly introduced bill was scheduled in the House on November 20 when last-minute issues emerged. While the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, which had jurisdictional control over issues pertaining to the FAA, had declined a legislative referral on the bill[lxvii] – indicating that it had no substantive objection – senior Democratic members of the Committee felt otherwise. A debate occurred when the bill came to the House floor, with Rep Oberstar (D-MN), Ranking Member of the Committee, and Rep. DeFazio (D-OR) analogizing human spaceflight to traditional aviation and arguing for a licensing regime that placed a greater emphasis on passenger safety.[lxviii]

Despite these objections, the bill was passed with a final vote of 269 – 120. However, in the Senate, where a vote by unanimous consent was scheduled, an “anonymous hold” was placed on the bill – done over definitional issues over suborbital vehicles that took off under jet power but went to space under rocket power.[lxix] With the hold on the legislation, the bill seemed destined to die at the expiration of the Congress; the media following the bill’s progress anticipated it would fail.[lxx] However, with last minute support from the newly-elected Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Reid (D-NV), the Senate took the bill up on December 8 and passed it – one of the final bills to pass the waning 108th Congress. On December 23, the bill was signed into law.[lxxi]

As Rep. Rohrabacher’s final bill – which ultimately passed both chambers – was pre-negotiated, no conference committee was convened nor was a conference report drafted. Considered without debate in the Senate, the legislative history on Senate deliberations is nearly non-existent.[lxxii] Nonetheless, the language featured in the passed legislation reflects compromise found between the House Science and the Senate Commerce Committees. As described by Rep. Boehlert, the language of the bill “is the equivalent of a conference report, as it reflects bipartisan negotiations” between the two chambers.[lxxiii]

While being called by some an “industry wish-list,”[lxxiv] the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act achieved several significant aims for the regulation of commercial spaceflight.[lxxv] Among them, the legislation located all regulatory authority for commercial human spaceflight in the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation and established an “experimental permit” category that would allow industry to test new types of reusable suborbital rockets. It again extended the commercial launch indemnification regime. Perhaps most importantly, it established a regulatory regime for commercial human spaceflight: requiring AST to issue regulations for crew training, limiting safety requirements for non-crew passengers – “spaceflight participants” – to consist only of informed of, and providing written consent to, the risks of their participation. A “learning period” for commercial spaceflight was created, in which the Secretary of Transportation would not issue safety regulations beyond the informed consent regime established in the bill. In short, despite the objections raised by the House T&I Committee’s Democrats, the bill established what a majority in the Congress ultimately decided was the most balanced regulatory regime to foster the development of the nascent commercial human spaceflight industry.[lxxvi]

The U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015

In the decade following the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004, the launch indemnification regime and industry regulatory “learning period” were, through various pieces of legislation not specific to commercial space, extended. However, by 2015, the indemnification regime was to sunset in 2016,[lxxvii] while the learning period was to end on September 30, 2015.[lxxviii] The launch and human spaceflight industries, which had not grown and developed as anticipated following the flight of SpaceShipOne, desired another extension.[lxxix] Meanwhile, several companies were exploring business plans for mining asteroids for valuable resources – another novel area of space activity for which there was no statutorily-approved authorization regime.[lxxx]

On May 12, Rep. McCarthy (R-CA), House Majority Leader, introduced the “Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship (SPACE) Act. Among other provisions, the bill sought to update several of the standing provisions in commercial space statute – extending the “learning period” prohibition on commercial spaceflight regulation through 2023, extending the launch indemnification regime through 2023 while providing for an updated calculation on maximum probable loss for insurance requirement, extending indemnification to cover spaceflight participants, and extending cross-waivers of liability to include spaceflight participants.[lxxxi]

The same day, Senator Cruz (R-TX), Chairman of the Space Subcommittee, introduced a companion bill to the SPACE Act – the “Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act.” It contained many of the provisions of the House bill, though it did not include indemnification or cross-waivers for spaceflight participants and only extended the learning period and launch indemnification through 2020.[lxxxii] Unlike in the House, the bill enjoyed bipartisan support, with co-sponsorship by Sen. Nelson, Ranking Member of the full Senate Commerce Committee, and Sen. Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Space Subcommittee. On May 20, the Senate Commerce Committee favorably reported the bill on a unanimous voice vote.

On May 13, the House Science Committee marked up the SPACE Act. Democratic members of the Committee opposed the act, particularly its provisions on spaceflight participants and its extension of indemnification. Science Committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Space Subcommittee Ranking Member Edwards (D-MD), and Rep Grayson (D-FL) all spoke against the bill, Rep. Grayson in particular saying that “any limitation of liability, any indemnification, is wrong… we invite an accident, we invite a tragedy, if we limit liability.”[lxxxiii]  

Democratic members of the Committee offered a series of amendments – to shorten the learning period and launch indemnification to 5 years, to elimination a provision that would allow suborbital companies to hold launch licenses and experimental permits simultaneously for the same vehicle, and to remove a specification that federal courts hold sole jurisdiction for legal action arising from a licensed launch. However, all amendments were struck down on party lines.[lxxxiv] Meanwhile, the Committee approved – again on party lines – an amendment by Rep. Knight (R-CA) to extend indemnification and the learning period to 2025.[lxxxv]

During markup, the Committee also incorporated three other pieces of commercial space-relevant legislation into the SPACE Act’s text. Two of them proved non-controversial – one, sponsored by Rep. Bridenstine (R-AK), requiring the Department of Commerce to report on delays in issuing licenses for remote sensing spacecraft and examining any needed updates to remote sensing statute, and one, sponsored by Rep. Rohrabacher, renaming the Office of Space Commercialization to the Office of Space Commerce and updating the scope of its responsibilities. The third was the Space Resource Exploration and Utilization Act of 2015, introduced earlier in the year by Rep. Posey (R-FL) and Rep. Kilmer (D-WA), which permitted American companies property rights to resources they mine or otherwise obtain in space.[lxxxvi]

The Committee’s Democrats raised concerns about whether the bill would comply with international treaties, particularly the Outer Space Treaty, which prohibit appropriation of extraterrestrial territory by means of use or occupation. Ranking Member Johnson introduced an amendment that would replace the bill with an interagency study on the legal issues on space resource property rights. Again, Rep. Johnson’s amendment failed.[lxxxvii] The SPACE Act was then reported favorably out of Committee on party lines, 18-13.[lxxxviii],[lxxxix]

On May 21, the full House took up the bill. In debate, Rep. Edwards noted that the bill “simply doesn’t adequately protect the public’s interest regarding safety of spaceflight participants – both the bill’s supporters and opponents pointed to a Statement of Administration Policy that, while not opposing the bill, called attention to concerns it had about the learning period extension.[xc] During the bill’s time on the floor, several amendments making minor changes and additions were considered and accepted. Rep. Edwards introduced an amendment that would replace the bill’s text with the Senate’s version, passed a day earlier.[xci] However, the amendment was voted down on near-party lines,[xcii] with Republicans noting that the House bill, a compilation of several bills, now contained many more provisions.[xciii] The House then moved to vote on the bill, which it passed 281-133 – with nearly every Republican and 48 Democrats voting in favor.[xciv]

The House and Senate conducted a conference through the summer and into the fall, concluding work on October 28.[xcv] However, on October 29, a “hold” was placed on the bill, reportedly over the cross-waiver provisions for spaceflight participants that House Democrats opposed during the May markup.[xcvi] However, the hold was lifted, presumably over an alteration in the conferenced Senate text that would eliminate the cross-waiver provision for spaceflight participants in 2025; the House’s version would have applied the provision indefinitely. Among other changes, the conferenced text also contained a significant revision to the space resources property rights language included in the House bill – extended the right from applying only to material obtained from asteroids, to materials obtained from any “celestial body;” however, the revised language deleted a provision allowing for civil relief from “harmful interference” by other actors United States entities during the course of resource utilization activities.[xcvii] 

On November 10, the bill was discharged by unanimous consent from the Senate Committee on Commerce, was considered – as an amendment in the nature of a substitute – on the Senate floor, and passed by unanimous consent. On November 16, the House passed the Senate’s amended bill by voice vote. On November 25 – as the 114th Congress wound down – the President signed the bill into law.[xcviii]

Like the Commercial Space Act of 1998 and the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004, the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act made several significant updates to existing commercial space statute while establishing new areas of law.[xcix] Though a comparatively minor portion of the bill, the provisions establishing a statutory basis for private space mining received significant academic and press coverage.[c] The bill extended indemnification for 10 years, through 2025 – a far longer extension than had been in other bills; it also extended the “learning period” through 2023. Creating a new legal category for government-employed individuals who fly on spacecraft – “government astronauts” – the bill enabled NASA’s and international partners’ astronauts to ride on commercial vehicles without signing the otherwise required liability waivers, removing a potential legal roadblock (as the government can’t waive its liability).[ci] Finally, the bill laid a framework for further legislative action on commercial space activity by requiring reports on the remote sensing licensing regime and needed reforms, and on streamlining the launch licensing regime.

Observations, Conclusions, & Author’s Remarks

As noted in the introduction, this essay has set out to briefly review and describe the evolution of the United States’ commercial space statute, detailing the contents of its constituent legislation and the general process by which that legislation was developed and passed. Given the present availability of primary and secondary sources, and of Congressional documents, the picture becomes clearer for the legislative efforts of recent years than for the efforts of the 1980s and early 1990s. Constrained both by scope and by the accessibility of information, this paper could not capture in full all of the debate, compromise, staff participation, and Member involvement that surely molded and influenced the law we have today. Nonetheless, several general observations and conclusions can be drawn from the story presented.

First is on the importance of stakeholders in the legislative process and debate. Space policy professionals, especially those working for the commercial sector, are closely familiar with particular members of Congress and their staff – and for good reason. As seen in this legislative history, certain individuals were more closely and consistently involved in the crafting of commercial space legislation than their colleagues. Members such as Rep. Rohrabacher, Rep. Sensenbrenner, Rep. Johnson, Rep. Gordon, and Rep. (and later, Sen.) Nelson, among others, are seen playing significant – often leading – roles in several of the efforts of this decades-long history.

Motivations for this involvement varied: sometimes from parochial concerns (such as was suggested for Rep. Akaka, or for the “space state” members from Texas and Florida), to genuine passion and personal interest (such as Rep. Gingrich, and increasingly, Rep. Rohrabacher). Congressional organizations and caucuses, such as the Space Caucus of the 1980s, can play significant – sometimes critical – roles in identifying and building interest, motivation, and support for particular legislative efforts. In short, Members “matter” – a widely recognized, though perhaps often underappreciated fact. Legislation is not developed impartially, solely on “pure” issues of public policy; rather, it is the interests, perspectives, experiences, and legacies of the Members and staff involved that are often pivotal in shaping a bill’s final form. For narrow fields such as commercial space, statute has been influenced more by the Members who “showed up” by joining (or being assigned to) relevant Committees and Subcommittees of jurisdiction, than it has by those who didn’t – in a sense, the body of commercial space law that exists today is more a reflection of the efforts and policy positions of handfuls of Members than it is of the whole of Congress.

Yet it is not just Members who “matter.” The history of commercial space legislation demonstrates that external stakeholders play significant roles in the identification of issues to address and the shaping of debate. This is especially true for commercial space law – statute designed in particular to govern particular actors and stakeholders, not the public at-large. Through meetings with staff and Members and testimony delivered at tailored hearings, the commercial space industry has – throughout the decades – identified emergent capabilities and corresponding areas of regulatory concern. The legislation developed has closely reflected those positions; indeed, to the point that some have decried the bills as “industry wish-lists.”

However, industry is not alone in playing an important external role in the legislative process. As seen, the Congress has consulted with and considered the positions and perspectives of the relevant regulating agencies, the Administration, academia, think-tanks, interest groups, and others with a stake in or position on commercial space. Language in these bills has frequently been added, modified, or struck to capture and accommodate their concerns. Noted multiple times for several of these acts, the final product is not “a perfect bill.” Rather, it is compilation of compromises – a common ground forged between the perspectives of Members of both chambers, a delicate balance struck between various groups and interests with often different – and sometimes entirely disparate – desires and concerns. This is not unique to commercial space legislation; rather, it is the defining characteristic of the legislative process, and indeed of governance in general.

For those who follow, study, or participate in the legislative process, the evolution of commercial space statute is an exemplary case-study in the myriad procedures, steps, and maneuverings that legislation can undergo. The legislative process is rarely as simple and straightforward as suggested in basic civic classes; as the various pieces of commercial space legislation demonstrate, arriving at passage of a bill can require significantly advanced legislative procedure. There are “holds” that can be placed in the Senate to force adjustment to contentious language (as seen in the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 and the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015); bills can be finalized through final-vote floor amendments adjusting the other chamber’s final-vote floor amendments (seen in the Commercial Space Act of 1998); bills can be introduced and reintroduced, sometimes in the last moments, to incorporate the other chamber’s language and expedite passage (seen in the Land Remote Sensing Act of 1992). Legislation may substantively replicate and build upon bills that failed in previous Congresses (the Commercial Space Act of 1998) or consist of several separate bills compiled together in a markup (the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015). Legislation may feature companion bills introduced in the other chamber to force the legislative process, or it may not. Simply put, there is no definitive, singular way that an idea becomes a bill, or a bill becomes a law.

That said, the evolution of commercial space statute has shown a remarkable consistency in the adherence to a “regular order” in general Congressional process. Except, perhaps, for the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act,[cii] each bill developed in a similar way – Subcommittees and Committees holding hearings, often several, on particular topics of legislative interest; a bill being introduced reflecting the testimony and perspectives offered in the hearing; Subcommittee and Committee markup, sometimes including opportunity for amendment; floor consideration, sometimes offering opportunity for amendment; and votes on final passage. At a time when many decry what is perceived as a gradual breakdown in the legislative process, the various commercial space bills reflect the Congressional process largely “working right” – offering stakeholders the opportunity to offer ideas and expert opinions and giving Members the opportunity to ask questions, offer perspectives, and contribute substantively to language.

The evolution of commercial space law is also demonstrative of how legislation often builds upon past statute. It features an “organic law” – in this case the Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984, or the Land Remote Sensing Policy Act of 1992 – which sets a statutory foundation for a particular topic. Subsequent legislation establishes new policy by building upon that organic law through explicit amendment – such as the Commercial Space Launch Act being amended over the years to feature an indemnification regime and “learning period” regime, incorporate suborbital and reusable rockets in licensing, enable the issuance of “experimental permits,” and cover human spaceflight. Congress need not – and, as seen, often does not – establish whole new sections of statute and code in order to address new or developing topics in a particular issue area.

Turning to more specific observations on commercial space policy, as revealed through this legislative history – first, particularly encouraging during this era of increasing political polarization, commercial space has been a topic of generally broad bipartisan support and cooperation. Most bills, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s, were passed by unanimous consent or non-controversial voice votes and featured non-contentious mark-up processes, in which amendments were widely accepted or not offered at all. While there was, of course, minor disagreements over language in the earlier bills, it was not until the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 and the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015 that significant partisanship – or split votes – had been demonstrated in markup or on the chamber floor. Even then, this disagreement has largely focused around the indemnification and passenger safety regimes; significant policies, to be sure, but not the entire scope of commercial space statute.

It is notable that the indemnification regime has been a consistent focal point for legislative efforts on commercial space since the 1980s. Originally designed to sunset only several years after the 1988 bill’s passage, it has now been extended for nearly three decades – and is set to last for at least another several years from today, if not indefinitely. The “learning period” on safety regulations increasingly looks to be in similar circumstances. As both policy topics have seemingly been settled for some years to come, the partisan disagreement demonstrated during the latest passed commercial space bills may not similarly materialize in upcoming ones – though a Congressional Democratic Majority could, conceivably, revisit and amend the regimes.

Otherwise, commercial space legislation has largely focused on straight-forward and generally bipartisan issue areas seeking to promote and foster the growth of the commercial space sector. As new capabilities not envisioned in earlier bills came online or were proposed – reusable rockets, commercial Earth observation satellites, suborbital spacecraft, private human spaceflight, asteroid mining – the Congress has addressed the resultant regulatory gap. Aligned with Administration policy, the Congress has pursued policies which mandate that the government maximize utilization of – and minimize competition with – commercial space service and launch providers. When regulatory or licensing regimes have been demonstrably “broken” or clear impediments to industry development, the Congress has attempted to fix or revise them. Through consistent reporting requirements and study mandates, the Congress has sought to identify relevant issues and opportunities addressable by future legislation.

In all, the legislative history of commercial space statute is a fascinating case-study into Congressional processes and procedures, as well as the specific policy areas of focus and concern for the commercial space industry and the Congress. If the past thirty years of commercial space legislation suggest anything, it’s that, so long as commerce is pursued in the “final frontier,” it will surely be accompanied by a relevant legislative proposal (and debate) in the halls of Congress.


Works Cited


[i] A condensed background on Executive Branch actions that catalyzed legislative action on commercial launch licensing may be found in: Federal Aviation Administration, “Origins of the Commercial Space Industry”. https://www.faa.gov/about/history/milestones/media/Commercial_Space_Industry.pdf

[ii] For a review of the ad-hoc process SSI had to undertake to secure authorization to launch, see: Steptoe, E. Jason, “United States Government Licensing of Commercial Activities by Private Enterprise” (1985). Documents on Outer Space Law. 7. Pg. 193. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1006&context=spacelawdocs. See also: Allen Duane Weber, “Launching the Rocket Industry in the United States: Domestic Regulation of Private Expendable Launch Vehicles,” 50 J. Air L & Com 1 (1984). https://scholar.smu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1721&context=jalc

[iii] Norman D. Sandler, “Reagan clears way for commercial satellite launchers,” UPI, May 16, 1983. https://www.upi.com/Archives/1983/05/16/Reagan-clears-way-for-commercial-satellite-launchers/9624421905600/

[iv] For an in-depth history of the Congressional Space Caucus, reference: Jacqueline Cortese, “Rediscovering Space: The Rise and Fall of the Congressional Space Caucus, 1981-1989,” Carnegie Mellon University, 2012. http://shelf1.library.cmu.edu/HSS/2012/a1471377.pdf.

[v] Ibid. pg. 26.

[vi] Rediscovering Space: The Rise and Fall of the Congressional Space Caucus, 1981-1989.” Pg. 28.

[vii] A personal recounting of this development, and its impact on subsequent legislation, may be found in an interview with Courtney Stadd, who helped engage Congress on commercial launch issues during that period. See: Rebecca Wright, “Interview with Courtney A. Stadd,” NASA Headquarters Oral History Project, January 2003. https://www.jsc.nasa.gov/history/oral_histories/NASA_HQ/Administrators/StaddCA/StaddCA_1-7-03.htm

[viii] “House Report No. 98-816 to Accompany H.R. 3942, Commercial Space Launch Act,” 98th Congress, May 31, 1984. Pg. 9.

[ix] Rediscovering Space: The Rise and Fall of the Congressional Space Caucus, 1981-1989.” Pg. 29.

[x] An in-depth recollection of the back-and-forth between the Congress and Executive on deciding which Agency would be granted the lead on launch licensing may be found in: Norman Bowles, “DOT (New Guys) Meets the Hill (Veterans of Space),” http://www.commercialspacetransportation.info/dot-meets-the-hill/

[xi] House Report No. 98-816. Pg. 9. See also:  “Senate Report No. 98-656 to Accompany H.R. 3942,” 98th Congress, October 3, 1984. Pg. 2.

[xii] “DOT (New Guys) Meets the Hill (Veterans of Space)”

[xiii] “All Actions: H.R. 3942 – 98th Congress (1983-1984).” Congress.gov. https://www.congress.gov/bill/98th-congress/house-bill/3942/all-actions

[xiv] “Commercial Space Launch Act: hearing before the Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Space of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, United States Senate, Ninety-eighth Congress, first session, on S. 2931.” 98th Congress, September 6, 1984.

[xv] “All Actions: H.R. 3942 – 98th Congress (1983-1984).”

[xvi] “Public Law 98-575”, Government Publishing Office. October 30, 1984. https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/STATUTE-98/pdf/STATUTE-98-Pg3055.pdf

[xvii] Philip Boffey, “Commercial Launching By NASA Ordered Shifted To Private Sector,” New York Times, August 16, 1986. https://www.nytimes.com/1986/08/16/us/commercial-launching-by-nasa-ordered-shifted-to-private-sector.html. See also: “Origins of the Commercial Space Industry”.

[xviii] “State of Commercial Launch Industry, Hearings before the Subcommittee on Space Science and Application of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee,” 100th Congress, September 15, 17, 1987.

[xix] “Senate Report No. 100-593 to Accompany H.R. 4399,” 100th Congress, October 7, 1988. Pg. 4.

[xx] Ibid.

[xxi] “Commercial Launching By NASA Ordered Shifted To Private Sector.”

[xxii] “H.R. 3765, the Commercial Space Launch Act Amendments, Hearings before the Subcommittee on Space Science and Applications of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee on H.R. 3765,” 100th Congress, February 16, 17, 1988.

[xxiii] Detailed analysis of the risk-sharing regime established by the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act may be found in: Valerie Kayser, “An Achievement of Domestic Space Law: U.S. Regulations and Private Commercial Launch Services,” 16 Annals Air & Space L 341 (1991). See also: Kim Yelton, “Evolution and Implementation of the Commercial Space Launch Act and Amendments of 1988,” 4 J.L. & Tech. 117 (1989).

[xxiv] “All Actions: H.R. 4399 – 100th Congress (1987 – 1988).” Congress.gov. https://www.congress.gov/bill/100th-congress/house-bill/4399/

[xxv] Senate Report No. 100-593 to Accompany H.R. 4399,” 100th Congress, October 7, 1988.

[xxvi] “All Actions: H.R. 4399 – 100th Congress (1987 – 1988).”

[xxvii] “Public Law 100-657,” Government Publishing Office. November 15, 1988. https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/STATUTE-102/pdf/STATUTE-102-Pg3900.pdf

[xxviii] A thorough review of the evolution in U.S. commercial “remote sensing” policy and execution, particularly in the 1980s, may be found in: Kenneth Thompson, “A Political History of Commercial Remote Sensing, 1984 – 2007: Conflict, Collaboration, and the Role of Knowledge in the High-Tech World of Earth Observation Satellites,” Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, November 20, 2007. https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/bitstream/handle/10919/30235/STS_Dissertation_Ken_Thompson_2007.pdf;sequence=1. See also: Scott Pace, “The Regulation of Commercial Remote Sensing Systems,” RAND, March 1994. https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/testimonies/2006/CT112.pdf

[xxix] “Public Law 98-365,” Government Publishing Office. July 17, 1984. https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/STATUTE-98/pdf/STATUTE-98-Pg451.pdf

[xxx] “A Political History of Commercial Remote Sensing, 1984 – 2007: Conflict, Collaboration, and the Role of Knowledge in the High-Tech World of Earth Observation Satellites,” Pg. 21.

[xxxi] “All Actions: H.R. 3614 – Land Remote Sensing Act of 1992 – 102nd Congress (1991-1992).” Congress.gov. https://www.congress.gov/bill/102nd-congress/house-bill/3614/all-actions.

[xxxii]S. 2297, the Land Remote Sensing Policy Act of 1992 : hearing before the Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Space of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, United States Senate,” 102nd Congress. May 6, 1992.

[xxxiii] “House Report No. 102-539, National Landsat Policy Act of 1992,” 102nd Congress, May 28, 1992. Pg. 13.

[xxxiv] Ibid, Pg. 14.

[xxxv] “Public Law 102-555,” Government Publishing Office. October 28, 1992. https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/STATUTE-106/pdf/STATUTE-106-Pg4163.pdf

[xxxvi] “The Regulation of Commercial Remote Sensing Systems,” Pg. 4.

[xxxvii] Ibid, Pg. 5.

[xxxviii] “House Report No. 105-347, Commercial Space Act of 1998,” 105th Congress. October 24, 1997. Pg. 13.

[xxxix]The Commercial Space Act of 1997, parts I-III: hearings before the Committee on Science, Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, U.S. House of Representatives,” 105th Congress. May 21, 22, and June 4, 1997.

[xl] Ibid.

[xli]  “House Report No. 105-347, Commercial Space Act of 1998.” Pg. 16.

[xlii] “The Commercial Space Act of 1997, parts I-III: hearings before the Committee on Science, Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, U.S. House of Representatives.” See also: “House Report No. 105-347, Commercial Space Act of 1998.” Pg. 18.

[xliii] “House Report No. 105-347, Commercial Space Act of 1998.” Pgs. 110-115, 117-121.

[xliv] Ibid, pg. 119.

[xlv] Ibid, pg. 17.

[xlvi] “All Actions: H.R. 1702 – Commercial Space Act of 1998 – 105th Congress (1997-1998).” Congress.gov. https://www.congress.gov/bill/105th-congress/house-bill/1702/all-actions

[xlvii] “Senate Report 105-198,” 105th Congress. June 2, 1998. Pg. 3. https://www.congress.gov/105/crpt/srpt198/CRPT-105srpt198.pdf

[xlviii] Ibid, pg. 4.

[xlix] “Congressional Record – House, Vol. 144, No. 137 Daily Edition.” 105th Congress. October 5, 1998. Pg. H9499. https://www.congress.gov/crec/1998/10/05/CREC-1998-10-05-pt1-PgH9494-4.pdf

[l] “Public Law 105-303,” 105th Congress. October 28, 1998. https://www.congress.gov/105/plaws/publ303/PLAW-105publ303.pdf

[li] Detailed section-by-section breakdown, particularly of Committee views on each provision, may be found in the House and Senate reports. Note that the Senate’s report, issued subsequent to the House’s report, provides a more accurate perspective on the bill’s language as it approached its final form passed into law: “House Report No. 105-347, Commercial Space Act of 1998.” Pgs. 19-32. and “Senate Report 105-198.” Pgs. 9-15.

[lii] Hon. Dana Rohrabacher, “Commercial Space Transportation Competitiveness Act of 1999,” Congressional Record Vol. 145, No. 106, July 26, 1999. Pg. E1650. https://www.congress.gov/crec/1999/07/26/CREC-1999-07-26-pt1-PgE1650-2.pdf

[liii] “Commercial Space Transportation Competitiveness Act,” Congressional Record Vol. 145, No. 132, October 4, 1999.

[liv] “Commercial Space Transportation Competitiveness Act of 2000,” Congressional Record Vol. 145, No. 130, October 17, 2000. https://www.congress.gov/crec/2000/10/17/CREC-2000-10-17-pt1-PgH9949.pdf

[lv] “Public Law 106-405,” 106th Congress. November 1, 2000. https://www.congress.gov/106/plaws/publ405/PLAW-106publ405.pdf

[lvi] Alan Boyle, “SpaceShipOne wins $10 million X-Prize,” NBC News. October 5, 2004. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/6167761/ns/technology_and_science-space/t/spaceshipone-wins-million-x-prize/#.W_N_puhKiUk

[lvii] Mike Wall, “How SpaceShipOne and X Prize Launched Commercial Spaceflight 10 Years Ago,” Space.com. October 3, 2014. https://www.space.com/27339-spaceshipone-xprize-launched-commercial-spaceflight.html

[lviii] “S. 1260 – Commercial Space Transportation Act of 2003 – 108th Congress (2003-2004),” Congress.gov. https://www.congress.gov/bill/108th-congress/senate-bill/1260

[lix] A comprehensive look at the politics and provisions behind the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act, including in-depth discussion of the rationale behind its commercial human spaceflight sections, may be found in: Timothy Hughes & Eta Rosenberg, “The Evolution of the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004,” 31 J. Space L. 1 (2005). Pg. 26.

[lx]Commercial human space flight : joint hearing before the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, Committee on Science, House of Representatives and the Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Space, Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, U.S. Senate,” 108th Congress.July 24, 2003. https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-108hhrg88501/html/CHRG-108hhrg88501.htm

[lxi] “The Evolution of the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004,” Pg. 27.

[lxii] “House Report 108-249 to Accompany H.R. 3752, Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004.” 108th Congress. March 1, 2004. Pgs. 4-6. https://www.congress.gov/108/crpt/hrpt429/CRPT-108hrpt429.pdf

[lxiii] “The Evolution of the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004,” Pgs. 28-29.

[lxiv] For a description of Rep. Lucas’ concern, see: Ibid, Pg. 32. See also: Alan Boyle, “All systems go for new spaceflight law,” NBC News. July 22, 2004. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/5490410/ns/technology_and_science-space/t/all-systems-go-new-spaceflight-law/#.W_LCzuhKiUk

[lxv] Ibid, Pg. 28.

[lxvi] Ibid, Pgs. 40-41.

[lxvii] Ibid, Pg. 41

[lxviii] “150 Congressional Record H10049,” Congressional Record Index. 2004.

[lxix] “The Evolution of the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004,” Pgs. 42.

[lxx] Jeff Foust, “When good legislation goes bad,” The Space Review. October 11, 2004. http://www.thespacereview.com/article/244/1. See also: “The Evolution of the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004,” Pg. 43.

[lxxi] “Public Law 108-492,” Government Publishing Office. December 23, 2004. https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-108publ492/pdf/PLAW-108publ492.pdf

[lxxii] “The Evolution of the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004,” Pg. 40.

[lxxiii] “150 Congressional Record H10052, at 1445” Congressional Record Index. November 19, 2004.

[lxxiv] “The Evolution of the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004,” Pg. 47.

[lxxv] A detailed breakdown of these provisions, including their rationale and differences between the earlier and later versions of the legislation, may be found in: “The Evolution of the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004,” Pgs. 38-71.

[lxxvi] For a staff perspective on the established regulations for human suborbital spaceflight, see: Rebecca Wright, “Interview with James A.M. Muncy,” NASA Johnson Space Center Oral History Project. June 21, 2013. https://www.jsc.nasa.gov/history/oral_histories/C3PO/MuncyJAM/MuncyJAM_6-21-13.htm

[lxxvii] “House Report 114-119, Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015,” 114th Congress. May 18, 2015. Pgs. 8-9. https://www.congress.gov/114/crpt/hrpt119/CRPT-114hrpt119.pdf

[lxxviii] “Senate Report 114-88, U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act,” 114th Congress. July 22, 2015. Pg. 2. https://www.congress.gov/114/crpt/srpt88/CRPT-114srpt88.pdf

[lxxix] Jeff Foust, “Congress launches commercial space legislation,” SpaceNews. May 26, 2015. http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2759/1

[lxxx] Rod Pyle, “Deep Space Industries: A New Asteroid-Mining Company Is Born,” Space.com. January 28, 2013. https://www.space.com/19462-asteroid-mining-deep-space-industries-birth.html. See also: Mike Wall, “Asteroid Mining May Be a Reality by 2025,” Space.com. August 11, 2015. https://www.space.com/30213-asteroid-mining-planetary-resources-2025.html.

[lxxxi] “H.R. 2262 – Introduced in House (5/12/2015).” Congress.gov. https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2262/text/ih

[lxxxii] “Congress launches commercial space legislation.”

[lxxxiii] Ibid.

[lxxxiv] “House Report 114-119 – Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015.” Pgs. 34-39. https://www.congress.gov/114/crpt/hrpt119/CRPT-114hrpt119.pdf.

[lxxxv] Ibid, pgs. 30, 32-33.

[lxxxvi] For background on this bill’s predecessor legislation and international implications, see: Charles Stotler, “The ASTEROIDS Act and hearing: some observations on international obligations.” SpaceReview. September 22, 2014. http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2604/1. See also: Jeff Foust, “Hearing Raises Questions About Asteroid Mining Bill,” SpaceNews. September 10, 2014. https://spacenews.com/41825hearing-raises-questions-about-asteroid-mining-bill/

[lxxxvii] “Congress launches commercial space legislation.”

[lxxxviii] “House Report 114-119 – Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015,” Pg. 43.

[lxxxix] A full description and explanation of the Democrat’s dissenting views on the SPACE Act’s provisions may be found in the “Minority Views” section of the House Report: “House Report 114-119 – Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015,” Pgs. 67-71.

[xc] “Congress launches commercial space legislation.”

[xci] “Amendment Text: House Amendment 261 to H.R. 2262 – 114th Congress (2015-2016).” Congress.gov, https://www.congress.gov/amendment/114th-congress/house-amendment/261/text

[xcii] “Final Vote Results for Roll Call 261,” House Clerk. May 21, 2015. http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2015/roll261.xml

[xciii] “Congress launches commercial space legislation.”

[xciv] “Final Vote Results for Roll Call 262,” House Clerk, May 21, 2015. http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2015/roll262.xml

[xcv] Jeff Foust, “Senate Holds Up Final Passage of Commercial Space Bill,” SpaceNews. November 3, 2015. https://spacenews.com/senate-holds-up-final-passage-of-commercial-space-bill/

[xcvi] Ibid.

[xcvii] Jeff Foust, “U.S. Senate Passes Compromise Commercial Space Bill,” SpaceNews, November 11, 2015. https://spacenews.com/u-s-senate-passes-compromise-commercial-space-bill/

[xcviii] “Public Law 114-90,” Congress.gov. November 25, 2015. https://www.congress.gov/114/plaws/publ90/PLAW-114publ90.pdf

[xcix] Detailed section-by-section breakdown, particularly of Committee views on each provision, may be found in the House and Senate reports. Note that the House’s report, covering the provisions of the additional bills added to the text, is more comprehensive than the Senate’s version. Also note that neither report reflects the language of the final bill as passed into law: “House Report 114-119 – Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015,” Pgs. 10-30. and “Senate Report 114-88, U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act,” 114th Congress. July 22, 2015. Pg. 2.

 and “Senate Report 105-198.” Pgs. 7-12.

[c] Mark Whittington, “Space mining is now part of American law,” The Hill. November 25, 2015. https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/technology/261226-space-mining-is-now-part-of-american-law.

[ci] Jeff Foust, “The Real Winners of the Commercial Space Bill,” SpaceNews Magazine. January 4, 2016. http://www.spacenewsmag.com/foust-forward/the-real-winners-of-the-commercial-space-bill/

[cii] As suggested in the “Minority Views” section of the House report – which stated that no hearings were held for the bill – though disputed in the Majority’s background write-up: “House Report 114-119 – Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015,” Pgs. 67-71.