House OKs Bill Extending Launch Liability Shield

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The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Oct. 20 that would extend for three years a liability shield meant to protect the commercial space launch industry against claims from uninvolved third parties resulting from a launch accident.

The current commercial space transportation liability regime was established by Congress as part of the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 1988 and has been extended four times. The current extension expires at the end of the year.

House Science & Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), the bill’s lead sponsor, said in a statement that the current liability and insurance regime “has worked, has not cost the American taxpayer a single dollar in claims payments to date, [and] has strengthened the U.S. competitiveness in commercial space launch.”

Gordon said the liability shield, under which the U.S. government indemnifies launch operators against catastrophic third-party losses resulting from a launch disaster, is “not a blank check” because “any potential claim payments would be subject to prior Congressional appropriation.”

The single-provision bill, H.R. 3819, was passed by voice vote. The legislation must pass the Senate before it can become law.