A few short generations ago, space was inaccessible. The most we could do to explore beyond our planet was to peer at the sky through land-based telescopes. Then, in the span of my lifetime, advances in rocketry made it possible for us to launch satellites, spacecraft, and even humans beyond our atmosphere. And while the drive to reach ever farther into space persists, the environment in which we’re operating has changed. 

In the past, government programs and missions drove our progress in space activities. Today, however, we see advances driven by entrepreneurship and the ingenuity of the private sector. 

We now live in a space-based economy. Satellites are providing everything from internet access to GPS guidance to storm tracking. You’d be hard-pressed to get through your day without relying on space-based services. 

Some estimates project that the global space industry will be worth more than $1 trillion by 2040. If we want the United States to reap the rewards of this economic boom, we must ensure a healthy environment exists for this sector to grow and thrive here. Doing so will benefit not only our country as a whole but also the Lone Star State – where more than one in ten U.S. space industry jobs are located. A robust American space industry guarantees the same in Texas.

However, the need for U.S. leadership in space goes far beyond the direct economic benefits. The country that leads the way in space exploration sets the standards for how we operate there. On the one hand, you have the values of freedom, transparency, and open science shared by America and our allies. On the other, the authoritarian regime of the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Liberation Army. 

To support U.S. space exploration, Congress has passed legislation that lays a foundation for how this enterprise can operate. 

The last law to support America’s commercial space growth was enacted in 2015—a lifetime ago for an innovative industry like this. In that bill, we encouraged private sector investment in space activities, created more stable and predictable regulatory conditions, and ensured a continued focus on safety. 

Now, eight years later, it’s time to reevaluate how we can continue supporting America’s commercial space sector and build on that legislation. As the Chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, I’ve joined our Committee Chairman, Frank Lucas, to introduce a bill that does just that. 

Our current legislation modernizes our laws to continue achieving these goals in a few key ways. It establishes a certification process for new and ongoing activities in space, providing certainty for our expanding commercial space sector. It improves our space situational awareness, which aids us in reducing risks of orbital debris. It extends the learning period for commercial human spaceflight so we can continue to innovate in this flourishing sector. And finally, it makes sure we’re operating within our international treaty obligations, which helps ensure American companies can operate in space without worry of international interference. 

In short, it reduces red tape, promotes safety, and encourages the next generation of explorers. 

If future generations are going to witness anything near the same level of achievement in space that I have seen in my lifetime, we must pass this critical piece of legislation to enable America’s continued expansion of innovative activities in space. 

U.S. Rep. Brian Babin represents the 36th District of Texas and is the chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology’s space subcommittee.