House Passes Commercial Space Industry Wish List

May 21, 2015
House Passes Commercial Space Industry Wish List

(Washington, DC) – Today the House passed H.R. 2262, the SPACE Act of 2015. The bill takes a fundamentally unbalanced approach to the issues facing the commercial space launch industry. Moving far beyond addressing the legitimate needs of the industry, the bill is heavily skewed towards industry’s desires.

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said, “I want to be clear that I am a strong supporter of the commercial space industry.  I think Members on both sides of the aisle want this industry to succeed, because this industry’s success will be good for our Nation.  However, the issues being dealt with in this bill are not straightforward. They are complex and require thoughtful consideration. Unfortunately, the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology hasn’t given these issues thoughtful consideration.  That is very unfortunate. Because we could be considering a bipartisan piece of legislation today if the Majority had simply laid the proper groundwork for moving complex legislation.” 

Some of the major issues with the bill:

  • Prohibits the FAA from proposing any passenger safety regulations until the end of 2025—more than 10 years from now.
  • Negatively affects the rights of individuals on important safety matters by requiring spaceflight participants (passengers) to waive liability against launch providers and other parties. That means that spaceflight participants have to waive their rights to sue the launch provider and related parties for claims even if there is negligence involved.
  • Imposes a new federal jurisdiction on states without a single congressional hearing to see if there will be unintended consequences. 
  • Establishes a controversial property rights regime and other provisions related to outer space resources which have received no meaningful vetting or review, and which have significant unresolved legal, policy, and constitutional issues.

The bill is opposed by a number of consumer and legal groups.  To see letters expressing concerns with H.R. 2262, click here.

Space Subcommittee Ranking Member Donna F. Edwards offered an Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute that would have replaced the text of H.R. 2262 with the bipartisan Senate companion commercial space bill (S.1297). S.1297 garnered significant support from the commercial space industry when it was introduced.  It was favorably reported out of the Senate Commerce Committee yesterday.

Congresswoman Edwards said, “Pursuing House passage of a bill that is going nowhere in the Senate seems to me to be the ultimate exercise in futility, and one that does a real disservice to the commercial space launch industry that we all are trying to help succeed. But we don’t have to go down that path.

My amendment would replace the underlying text of H.R. 2262 with the provisions of the bipartisan Senate commercial space bill. Let me repeat that—the language in my amendment already has garnered bipartisan support in the Senate. It is language that is cosponsored by Senators Ted Cruz, Bill Nelson, Cory Gardner, and Gary Peters—which is not something you can say about many other bills we consider in the House.”

She continued, “Now, the Senate bill doesn’t have everything I would like to see in a commercial space bill. I’m sure that is the same for my Republican colleagues and for some in the industry. That’s actually how legislation is made. However, it has a core set of provisions that I think we and the industry can support—and that’s what good compromises are all about... A bipartisan bill could be on its way to the President for enactment in a matter of weeks.”

The Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute was defeated on an essentially party-line vote.