Volume 2, No.
Only Chairman Bill Frist (R-TN) was on hand to oversee
Thursday's hearing (3/5/98) on the commercialization of space -- a
critical hearing to prepare for markup of the Commercial Space Act
on March 12. Eight members of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on
Science, Technology and Space did not attend this hearing.
Three panels testified before the Senator.
Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO), who represents the "two
leading commercial remote sensing firms" in the U.S., urged the
subcommittee to establish specific time frames for when the State
Department and Defense Department must complete comments on license
applications to export remote sensing technology. The House version
of the Commercial Space Act sets 60-day deadlines, while the Senate
version, authored by Senators Graham and Mack, has no clock.
Allard said "U.S. remote sensing companies face competition from
other countries with major remote sensing programs, including
Russia, France, India and Israel." He called the current system
"arbitrary and capricious," and said "firms cannot attract
customers with secure financing without placing predictable
limitations on the amount of time they must wait for a response
from the government."
Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) touted legislation to give "the
federal government the authority to license commercial space
re-entry activities." He highlighted a provision in his commercial
space bill that "would require the Department of Defense to conduct
an inventory of its range assets and determine what, if any
deficiencies exist." In doing so, Graham explained we can then
"convert our nation's launch ranges back to the busiest space
facilities in the world." The Florida Senator also singled out
legislation in his bill to allow the "conversion of excess
ballistic missiles into space transportation vehicles." The rockets
would be used to "launch small scientific and educational payloads
that cannot afford the larger and more expensive rocket
John Barker of the State Department, Keith
Calhoun-Senghor from Commerce, Gil Klinger from the Department of
Defense, and NASA General Counsel Ed Frankle provided government's
perspectives on the Commercial Space Act. DOD and the State
Department oppose the "60-day clock" for when they must complete
comments on remote sensing licensing applications.
Calhoun-Senghor offered an observation on the growing complexity
of licensing space systems. "Just as traditional lines between
military, civil and commercial space are blurring," he said, "the
growing international nature of space is also blurring lines
between traditional national systems."
Additionally, he said "It is increasingly difficult to determine
whether a SeaLaunch or a Globalstar is a U.S. system or something
entirely new. And this trend will accelerate. The question of who
is ‘us' will become a very relevant one, and has policy
implications for purposes of regulation, licensing and trade."
Frankle focused primarily on two issues that "are of great
importance to NASA's support of commercial space activity" --
cross-waivers of liability and indemnification. The issues are
addressed in the NASA Authorization bill, which the subcommittee
also plans to markup on March 12th. NASA is seeking legislation to
clarify its authority to " waive claims of the U.S. government in
its domestic cross-wavers." Without this authority, Frankle
explained, "the commercial aerospace industry supporting NASA's
aerospace activities could be placed at a competitive disadvantage
vis-a-vis our international partners, since NASA clearly can waive
these claims in international agreements but may not be able to
provide the same level of assurance in wholly domestic
NASA also is seeking indemnification authority for reusable
launch vehicles and other NASA domestic R&D programs.
John Copple, CEO of Space Imaging, Micheal Kelly of
Kelly Space and Technology, Robert Meuser of Kistler Aerospace, and
Michael Swick, Executive Director of U.S. Global Positioning System
Industry Council, filled out the final panel.
Copple reiterated positions offered by Senator Allard. Kelly
attacked government policies that undermine private investment in
commercial space launch systems. According to Kelly,"By funding
programs such as the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV), and
threatening to fund a commercial VentureStar, the government is
actually impeding progress in the commercial launch system." He
said the VentureStar, "while conceptually attractive as a
commercial vehicle" is, in his opinion, "beyond us
technologically." Kelly predicted private industry will not "be
able to raise the capital required to do it."
Meuser emphasized the need for legislation to allow Commerce to
license RLVs. Kistler has raised more than $200 million and wants
to become a "trucking company" for space. Commercial operations are
scheduled to begin in 1999. If legislation to license RLVs is not
enacted, Meuser said Kistler will have to complete testing in
Australia instead of developing a Nevada site. Swiek said the
commercial GPS industry is now $2 billion and is expected to grow
to more than $8 billion by the turn of the century.
About the NSS Capital Capsule
The Capsule is a timely report of highlights from Capitol Hill
hearings and other events involving space issues. Prepared by NSS
staff or volunteers who attend in person, the Capsule provides NSS
members and activists an "insider's" look into the thoughts of our
national elected officials on space issues.
The National Space Society is an independent, nonprofit space
advocacy group with headquarters in Washington, DC. Its 23,000
members and 90 chapters actively promote the creation of a