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With the upcoming lame duck session fast approaching, members of Congress have a number of “must-dos” before the year-end to keep our nation second to none in space. Sequestration is the headline item that members must take action on before January to prevent disastrous cuts to vital space programs managed by the DOD, NASA, NOAA and other agencies. However, sequestration isn’t the only issue that must be immediately addressed to maintain the United States’ leadership in space.
Another urgent issue is the renewal of the Commercial Space Launch Act’s (CSLA) risk management provision. Without renewal, the provision will lapse after December 31st, with potentially bleak consequences for the space launch industrial base.
In 1988, Congress amended the CSLA to establish a risk-sharing regime for FAA-licensed commercial space launches that would allow U.S. companies to compete with foreign launch providers. The approach Congress adopted requires launch providers to obtain private insurance to cover potential third-party liability up to the maximum probable loss. This regime covers losses above the maximum probable loss, but only if Congress chooses to approve such payment, and only if and when a claim is made. To date, no loss has ever occurred to trigger this regime, and Congress has never appropriated funding for the CSLA.
The CSLA risk sharing regime enables U.S. participation in the highly competitive international launch market and assures the health of our space industrial base that supports our nation’s security. In the interest of encouraging much needed policy stability within the strategically important space launch sector, AIA strongly advocates that the regime be extended for at least another five years.
Competition by foreign launch systems is intense, and all are supported by some form of indemnification by their respective governments. The CSLA regime enables U.S. launch providers to better compete with foreign competitors without “betting the company” with every launch. Nonetheless, the playing field is not level, and we have been losing; no U.S. commercial launch service providers launched in 2011. U.S. companies are making investments that may restore America’s competitiveness in a market our nation used to dominate, but without renewing the CSLA risk management regime, our industry will be further at risk. Beyond harming U.S. commercial launch competitiveness, U.S. government users of launch services would likely have increased launch costs for essential government payloads, which cannot be shipped elsewhere for launch.
AIA has spearheaded an aggressive campaign on Capitol Hill to ensure this provision is renewed as soon as possible. In June, AIA Vice President for Space, Frank Slazer, testified before the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics on the vital importance of renewal. AIA’s Commercial Space Committee has also been active on this issue and has conducted dozens of meetings with Congressional members and their staff to advocate for renewal. Renewing the Commercial Space Launch Act risk management provision in the lame duck session is a top priority for the AIA Space Council, and is a must for maintaining U.S. space launch leadership.
AIA Source: dan.hendrickson[at]aia-aerospace.org