Jim Bridenstine
U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), above, is planning a broad space reform bill that would change how the Defense Department and NASA approach space acquisitions and operations. Credit: Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) and House staffers have spent months drafting what they envision as a wide-reaching reform bill that would change how the Defense Department and NASA approach space acquisitions and operations.

The legislation, which will be known as the American Space Renaissance Act and would serve as a kind of clearinghouse of reforms, has been whispered about between lawmakers, staff members and industry officials for several months. Bridenstine formally discussed the effort publicly for the first time at the Washington Space Business Roundtable Jan. 11.

“I’m under no illusions that we’ll put it in the hopper and pass it,” he said. But, he added, “it was important to do a comprehensive bill that takes a global look at space.”

Instead, Bridenstine said he expects congressional committees to break apart the bill, incorporating sections into authorization and spending bills for NASA and the DoD.

Industry officials have been providing feedback on the draft bill for weeks.

During a short speech here, Bridenstine offered few specifics on what the final version of the bill would entail, but, as an example, said it could include language on the need to end U.S. reliance on Russian rocket engines or language encouraging the use of commercial GPS radio occultation satellites for  government weather forecasting.

Bridenstine serves on the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, which has oversight for military space programs, and the House Space, Science and Technology Committee, which oversees NASA. In his three years in Congress, he’s become one of the most active lawmakers on space issues and a favorite of the space industry.

In an interview following his speech, Bridenstine said the bill could eventually include language to move space situational awareness and space traffic management responsibilities away from the Defense Department and to civil agencies. House staffers have been studying that issue for months.

Already, the White House and Congress are in early discussions about how to give the Federal Aviation Administration a role in monitoring the space environment and heading off collisions between commercial satellites, a task currently handled by the Air Force.

Those discussions have come with a sense of urgency, sources have told SpaceNews, as several new businesses, many with ties to Silicon Valley, plan to launch hundreds of satellites in the coming years.

More details on the American Space Renaissance Act are expected this spring.

Mike Gruss covers military space issues, including the U.S. Air Force and Missile Defense Agency, for SpaceNews. He is a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.