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House Science Committee Sends Commercial Space Bill To House

The House Science Committee has voted on party lines to move forward with H.R. 6131, the Commercial Space Act of 2023.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Wed Nov 29 2023Written by Zac Aubert

The House Science Committee has voted on party lines to move forward with H.R. 6131, the Commercial Space Act of 2023.

The contentious markup process, initiated on November 15, concluded with a 21-17 vote, with Republicans in favor and Democrats in opposition. The legislation is now set to proceed to the full House for consideration, albeit with the possibility of modifications.

The bill aims to streamline regulatory processes, ensure compliance with international treaty obligations, reduce administrative burdens, and promote best practices in orbit.

“H.R. 6131 is critical to supporting America’s commercial space economy, as it streamlines the regulatory environment, ensures compliance with international treaty obligations, reduces administrative burdens and promotes best practices in orbit...Promoting a transparent, responsible environment here at home will strengthen our domestic industry and encourage an arena rife with innovation.” - Chairman Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.)

Democrats on the committee raised concerns during the initial markup, emphasizing the timing of the bill’s consideration just after the White House released its proposal for "mission authorization" of novel space activities not currently regulated by other agencies. The Democratic concerns were not explicitly detailed, leaving room for negotiations and potential amendments.

The National Space Council's proposal differed significantly from the House bill's mission authorization process.

“We have concerns and questions about some of this...We hope to work with the majority between now and the floor so all of us can be confident that this is the consensus of where we should move,” - Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.)

The House bill aligns more closely with industry preferences for mission authorization. The Commercial Spaceflight Federation, in a letter addressed to the leadership of the House Science Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee this week, expressed opposition to the White House proposal. The federation cited potential confusion on agency responsibility for regulating certain activities and the burden it could place, particularly on the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation supports an approach assigning mission authorization to the Office of Space Commerce, a provision included in the House bill.

The legislative process is now expected to unfold as both parties navigate potential modifications and compromises ahead of a vote in the full House.