Palazzo Hopes To Update Commercial Launch Law this Year

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WASHINGTON — The chairman of the U.S. House Science space subcommittee said July 17 he is still hopeful that an update to commercial launch law can make it through Congress before the end of the year, but he warned time may run out on another space-related bill.

“It is my hope, before this Congress is finished, that we will be able to get some updates to the CSLA [Commercial Space Launch Act] passed,” Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) said in a keynote address at the Future Space 2014 conference in Washington.

Palazzo did not discuss what specific changes he would like to see passed, and no formal legislation has been introduced yet in the House or Senate. Past discussions about an update to the CSLA have focused on several issues, including an extension of third-party launch indemnification, an extension of current restrictions on the Federal Aviation Administration regarding regulation of safety of spaceflight participants, and allowing suborbital vehicle developers to retain an experimental permit after they receive an FAA launch license.

Palazzo was less optimistic, though, about the prospects for a bill introduced earlier this month by Reps. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) and Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) that would grant companies property rights to resources extracted from asteroids. “We have a limited amount of legislative days this year,” he said. “Our committee is reviewing it as we speak.”

In his speech, Palazzo emphasized the passage of a NASA authorization bill his committee authored. The full House passed the bill June 9 on a 401-2 vote, but the Senate has yet to take up that bill or pass its own version. Palazzo said Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), the ranking member of the space subcommittee, has been in discussions with members of the Senate on the bill. “She does feel like they’re going to move something so we can at least go to conference and work it out,” he said. “I believe the Senate understands how important this is, just as we do in the House.”

Palazzo also offered a qualified endorsement of the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, which has supported commercial satellite and launch deals in recent years. “I do believe it’s something we should probably continue, but it needs to have some necessary reforms,” he said.