Harris at Space Council meeting
Vice President Kamala Harris said at the Sept. 9 National Space Council meeting that agencies should submit proposals for regulating "novel" commercial space activities in the next six months. Credit: NASA

WAILEA, Hawaii — The National Space Council plans to hold “learning sessions” with industry in coming weeks on how to develop a new regulatory framework for novel commercial space activities.

Speaking at the Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies (AMOS) Conference here Sept. 29, Diane Howard, director of commercial space policy for the National Space Council, said the council would soon publish formal notifications of those sessions to get input on both the types of space activities and how they should be supervised in order to comply with the Outer Space Treaty.

“I’d like you to start thinking about supervision: what it would look like, what are some ways to provide meaningful supervision of the operational phase of missions that doesn’t burden business models and doesn’t hinder innovation,” she said.

One learning session, scheduled for a little more than a month from now, will invite industry to discuss their planned missions “so we can better understand them and be more effective in crafting a flexible framework that can grow with them,” she said. A second session will focus on how to implement that supervision.

The sessions are part of an effort kicked off by Vice President Kamala Harris at the Sept. 9 meeting of the National Space Council, where she called for ideas to develop a new regulatory framework for commercial space activities that don’t fit into current systems. Those activities include in-space servicing and debris removal and commercial space stations. Harris asked for recommendations on that framework in 180 days.

“This is a big deal. We’re taking a good look at our regulatory framework, and we want to do this right,” she said, encouraging industry participation in the learning sessions or in private one-on-one meetings with the council.

Speaking to an audience of industry and government experts in space situational awareness (SSA), Howard said those evolving capabilities should play a role in that new regulatory framework. “I posit that SSA and traffic coordination might be able to help us accomplish this feat,” she said. “We would like to hear your thoughts on how the capabilities of this community can help us with the supervision piece.”

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...