WASHINGTON The White House released a policy framework to accompany its proposal to provide and manage new commercial activities in space.
The framework, to be announced at a December 20 meeting of the National Space Council, is intended to accompany a separate legislative proposal for mission authorization released on November 15. That proposal would divide responsibility between the Department of Commerce and Department of Transportation for the authorization and continued supervision of commercial space activities that are not currently regulated.
The policy framework, described by the White House in a fact sheet accompanying the legislative proposal, will enable the Executive Branch to better prepare and shape the future space regulatory environment.
A key element of the framework is the creation of a Private Sector Space Activities Interagency Steering Group co-chaired by the Secretaries of Commerce and Transportation in consultation with the chair of the Federal Communications Commission. The group will include several Cabinet-level departments as well as NASA and other federal agencies with expertise or suitability related to new private sector space activities.
That management team will coordinate strategies for issues related to emerging private sector space capabilities that are emerging or developing, the framework said. That includes working with the private sector on best practices, standards and protocols for sharing information about key US government interests for new space activities.
That information, in turn, will inform the guidance that the Departments of Commerce and Transportation provide to industry and incorporate into their regulatory processes. The document added that other agencies should consider incorporating best practices, standards and protocols into their own processes, and that the State Department should promote them internationally.
While a full mission authorization regime will require legislation, the policy framework calls on Commerce and Transport, along with other agencies, to use their existing statutory authorities to provide guidance to the private sector regarding those best practices and standards.
The framework also directs the Departments of Commerce and Transportation to reduce burdens on industry as part of the regulatory process. That would include harmonizing their separate rulemaking processes and creating strict timelines for reviews of applications and a presumption of an expedited review for approval.
The policy framework states that the US government’s Orbital Debris Mitigation Standard Practices (ODMSP) are the guidelines that government agencies must use when regulating private space activities. It called on several agencies to determine whether the ODMSP, which was last updated in late 2019, should be updated every two years.
Another element of the policy is the creation of an inventory of non-governmental space operations by the Commerce Department, which states that the government will benefit from such a centralized database. It does not specify what information about private space operations should be included in that database.
The release of the policy framework comes as the White House faces opposition to a legislative proposal that would give Commerce and Transportation the statutory authority to oversee commercial space activities that are not currently licensed. The House Science Committee approved a party-line vote Nov. 29 of his own commercial space bill that would give mission authorization authority exclusively to the Commerce Department.
In a December 13 hearing of the Senate Commerce Committees space subcommittee, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), chair of the subcommittee, said that the White Houses proposed legislation has many ambiguities, new undefined terms and wide open-ended grants. authority. He did not explain his concerns.
In that hearing, officials from several agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administrations Office of Commercial Space Transportation, within the Transportation Department, and the Office of Space Commerce within the Commerce Department, supported the White House mission authorization proposal. They told the senators that there are no cases where both departments license an activity and that there is a strong interagency process to address any jurisdictional issues.
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