Los Angeles, CA, June 10, 1997 – The Space Frontier Foundation called on the United States Senate to act quickly to solve a looming crisis in the U.S. space launch industry. According to the Foundation, a national citizens’ space policy organization, several companies are developing reusable launch vehicles (RLVs) that will radically lower the cost of space access. But no government agency currently has the authority to license the reentry of these RLVs.
“The House of Representatives has already passed one bill this year that provides the FAA with the authority to license these companies. But without prompt Senate action, those companies will have to operate overseas, killing American jobs, or not at all.” stated Foundation President Rick Tumlinson.
“We’re on the brink of an incredible revolution in the way we get to and from space. It will save taxpayers money and open up the space frontier to American industry. But the revolution won’t happen unless the Congress passes this legislation. We can’t afford for the Senate to take its time on this bill,” Tumlinson added.
The FAA’s Advanced Space Transportation office (AST) has the statutory authority to license commercial launches into space, but not the reentry of either payloads or vehicles. Firms developing these new spacecraft, which operate more like airplanes than ballistic missiles, cannot legally test their vehicle’s reentry capabilities, let alone begin regular commercial operations. The House-passed Civilian Space Authorization Act (HR1275) and newly-introduced Commercial Space Act of 1997 (HR1702) both authorize AST to create the necessary regulations.
Tumlinson concluded: “Billions of dollars are at stake here. The U.S. is in a position to leapfrog years ahead of other nations in commercial space transportation, just as it did in the aviation industry. A number of companies are ready to take the risk, but government needs to support them by moving quickly and decisively. We need the Senate to act ASAP.”
The media is invited to attend a Foundation hosted NASA-sponsored symposium on this and related issues July 21-22 at the Capitol Hill Hyatt Regency in Washington D.C.