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Sens. Cruz, Nelson, Markey Applaud Senate Passage of Bipartisan Space Frontier Act

‘The Space Frontier Act will extend and fortify our leadership in space’

December 20, 2018

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) today issued the following statements after the Senate passed their bipartisan Space Frontier Act (S.3277) by a unanimous vote of approval. In July, Sens. Cruz, Nelson, and Markey introduced this legislation to fortify America’s leadership in space exploration, continue operations for the International Space Station (ISS) through 2030, and reign in overreaching regulations to support further development of the commercial space sector. 

“For over half a century the United States has been the global leader in space. The Space Frontier Act not only ensures that the United States will remain the global leader in space exploration, but reduces regulatory barriers to allow a vibrant commercial economy to flourish in space,” Sen. Cruz said. “The Space Frontier Act takes the critical step of continuing the operations and utilization of the International Space Station through 2030, ensures that the United States won’t cede low-Earth orbit to China, and enacts meaningful reforms to modernize our nation’s launch and re-entry regulations, and streamlines nongovernmental Earth observation regulations. I am proud to have worked with Senators Nelson and Markey on this bipartisan legislation, and urge my House colleagues to take swift actions to pass our bill and send it to the President’s desk to be signed into law.”

“Reforms in this bill will help commercial space companies get to two launches a day in Florida,” Sen. Nelson said. “As a result, 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.”

“Passage of the Space Frontier Act is not just one small step, it is one giant leap that gets us that much closer to the next Great Space Age,” Sen. Markey said. I am proud of the Subcommittee’s hard work on this bipartisan piece of legislation, especially my partners Senator Cruz and Ranking Member Nelson. No mission is beyond the power of American ingenuity, and the Space Frontier Act will ensure that our sky is not a ceiling for innovation and achievement.” 

The full bill text may be viewed here. Highlights of the Space Frontier Act may be viewed below:

Sustains the Utilization of the International Space Station

  • Supports full and complete utilization of the International Space Station through at least 2030. 
  • Expresses support for maintaining a national lab to benefit the scientific community and promote commerce in space. 

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.
  • Requires DoT to issue a rulemaking to overhaul existing regulations within 1 year, and directs that the revised regulatory framework be focused around clear, high-level performance requirements applicable to both reusable and expendable systems. 
  • 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. 

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 (DoC) 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 DoC that focuses on managing risk to national security and preventing harmful interference to other space activities. 
  • Provides a streamlined 90-day process for other agencies to review applications; non-responsiveness is treated as assent to the application, and non-concurrences must be signed by the head of the non-concurring agency or department.

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