(Washington, DC) — House Committee on Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon’s (D-TN) bill to extend the commercial space transportation liability regime was signed into law (P.L. 111-125) by President Obama on December 28, 2009.

H.R. 3819, the Commercial Space Transportation Liability Regime Extension, passed the House on October 20, 2009 and was approved under unanimous consent by the Senate on December 23, 2009. The bill extends the current liability risk-sharing regime for three more years. This regime was first established by Congress as part of the Commercial Space Launch Act Amendments of 1988 and has been extended four times since its original enactment. It was originally modeled after liability risk-sharing with the nuclear power industry. Any potential claims payments would be subject to prior Congressional appropriation.

“To date, not a single dollar has had to be appropriated by the U.S. government to pay third-party claims, but the existence of the liability risk-sharing regime has enabled the development and sustainment of a commercial space launch industry in the U.S., including the emergence of several new companies in recent years,” said House Committee on Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN). “In addition, the regime has allowed U.S. companies to remain competitive with their international counterparts, almost all of whose governments provide similar or more generous risk-sharing liability regimes to that of the U.S.”

“America’s commercial space launch sector is important to the future of our competitiveness in the global space marketplace. This legislation will help keep our domestic space launch industry viable while also protecting the interests of the American taxpayers,” said bill cosponsor Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics Chairwoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ).

Full Committee Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX) and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics Pete Olson (R-TX) also cosponsored the bill.