The US government is developing a regulatory environment for the development of space flights: the departments of transportation and commerce will receive powers to regulate space

The White House has unveiled a possible regulatory framework for future private space stations. Responsibilities will be divided between two departments: the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Commerce.

On November 15, the US National Space Council NSC introduced draft legislation that would establish responsibility for space activities and infrastructure, including private space stations, in-space manufacturing and space debris removal.

Responsibility will be shared between the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Department of Commerce (DOC).

“This bill creates a regulatory environment that is conducive to commercial development,” Commerce Undersecretary Don Graves said in a release from the White House.

The US government is developing a regulatory environment for the development of space flights: the departments of transportation and commerce will receive powers to regulate space

A rendering of Orbital Reef, a private space station project involving Blue Origin, Sierra Space and several other private partners. Source: Sierra Space/Blue Origin

Under the current system, the Department of Commerce regulates private satellite remote sensing systems, and the Department of Transportation handles commercial launches, including astronaut safety, through the Federal Aviation Administration. At the same time, the Federal Communications Commission governs satellites’ use of the electromagnetic spectrum.

However, there are currently no clear “mission boundaries” for a large number of upcoming commercial activities in space. The proposed legislation by the NSC, a policymaking body headed by US Vice President Kamala Harris, seeks to fill these gaps.

For example, the new rules will expand the Department of Transportation’s security functions to astronauts in outer space, as well as those on the moon and other celestial bodies. The Department of Transportation will also be responsible for licensing space transportation missions, such as delivering cargo to the lunar surface.

The Department of Commerce will have authority over all new space activities that are not regulated by the Department of Transportation or the Department of Commerce. Specifically, manufacturing in space and satellites designed to remove space debris. The Department of Commerce will also have the authority to coordinate space traffic and develop regulations to help prevent collisions in space.

The NSC proposal is not the only possible regulatory concept for future space activities. The U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee is working on its own legislation, known as the Commercial Space Act, according to Marcia Smith, a space policy expert and former congressional staffer and founder of Space Policy Online, an online analysis resource. and information on space policies and issues related to space activities.


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