President Donald Trump’s initiatives to remove regulatory roadblocks go all the way to the final frontier. The Trump Administration recently announced a new policy that aims to deregulate the commercial space industry.
Growing Commercial Space Industry
The global space economy is closing in on $350 billion and is expected to become a multitrillion-dollar industry. It’s not all about traveling to Mars or creating a moon colony, commercial space opportunities include space tourism, mining, and satellite communications.
In 2010, President Barack Obama announced a new national space policy, which focused on encouraging and facilitating the growth of a U.S. commercial space sector. However, as countries across the globe strive to win the latest “space race,” the privately funded U.S. space industry maintains that it is still being hampered by federal regulations that have failed to evolve with technology.
Further assistance may be forthcoming. Since taking office President Trump has signaled that the U.S. space industry is a priority. Last June, President Trump signed an Executive Order reconvening the National Space Council for the first time in 24 years. On December 11, 2017, he signed Space Policy Directive-1, which directed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to return American astronauts to the Moon with the ultimate goal of establishing human missions to Mars.
Space Policy Directive 2
On May 24, 2018, President Trump signed Space Policy Directive-2 (SPD-2), which reflects recommendations made to the President by the National Space Council. Among other mandates, SPD-2 directs the Secretary of Transportation to establish a new regulatory system for managing launch and re-entry activity. The new rules must specifically “consider requiring a single license for all types of commercial space flight launch and re-entry operations and replacing prescriptive requirements in the process with performance-based criteria.”
Space Policy Directive 2 directs Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Jr. to “transmit a plan to create a ‘one-stop shop’ within the Department of Commerce for administering and regulating commercial space flight activities.” In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, Ross highlighted the benefits of consolidating federal oversight.
“At my department alone, there are six bureaus involved in the space industry. A unified departmental office for business needs will enable better coordination of space-related activities,” Ross wrote. “When companies seek guidance on launching satellites, the Space Administration will be able to address an array of space activities, including remote sensing, economic development, data-purchase policies, GPS, spectrum policy, trade promotion, standards and technology and space-traffic management.”
Under SPD-2, federal agencies are also directed to submit a report to President Trump on “improving global competitiveness of United States space radio frequency spectrum policies, regulation, and activities at the International Telecommunication Union and other multilateral forums.” In addition, the Directive requires the National Space Council to review export licensing regulations affecting commercial space flight activity and deliver recommendations to the President within 180 days.
The Trump Administration’s latest policy directive is a step in the right direction. However, more must be done for the U.S. commercial space industry to reach its full potential, including additional measures to modernize and streamline federal regulations. For many of these reforms, Congress must also get involved.
As with space travel itself, businesses will be entering unchartered territory. If you have any questions about the legal issues related to commercial space travel or would like to discuss how your New Jersey business may be able to take advantage of the opportunities in this industry, please contact one of our experienced attorneys.
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