Today, at the Biden-Harris Administration’s third National Space Council meeting, Vice President Harris will announce the United States Novel Space Activities Authorization and Supervision Framework, a new policy that complements the National Space Council’s (NSpC) legislative proposal, the “Authorization and Supervision of Novel Private Sector Space Activities Act”, which was transmitted to Congress in November.
At the September 2022 National Space Council meeting, Vice President Harris tasked the NSpC to develop a proposal for the clear and predictable authorization and supervision of commercial novel space activities, taking into account space safety. Novel space activities are those that are not directly regulated under the current U.S. regulatory system for private sector space activities.
The current U.S. commercial space regulatory framework is underpinned by the U.S. obligation in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty to authorize and provide continuing supervision of national activities in outer space. Although much of the U.S. regulatory licensing system was updated within the past five years, the underlying legacy statutes, which were developed before the growth in commercial space capabilities, are inadequate for effective regulation of novel space activities.
The NSpC legislative proposal updates this system to grant the Departments of Commerce (DOC) and Transportation (DOT) further authorities to oversee novel space activities, which will facilitate innovation and further U.S. leadership in the safety, security, and long-term sustainability of outer space activities.
The United States Novel Space Activities Authorization and Supervision Framework, a companion executive action to the proposed legislation, will enable the Executive Branch to better prepare for and shape the future space regulatory environment.
Key Elements of the Framework:
- Sets principles to guide implementation of the Framework by departments and agencies;
- Aligns DOC and DOT rulemaking timelines and comment periods;
- Requests DOC and DOT to consider expanding existing or establishing new Federal Advisory Committees to further Framework implementation;
- Bolsters international collaboration for the development and implementation of best practices and standards, maintaining U.S. leadership in setting rules for space;
- Directs the use of existing DOC and DOT internal processes to recommend best practices to guide private sector space activities, absent additional legislation;
- Provides a process for updating U.S. Government orbital debris mitigation standard practices;
- Creates a knowledge repository about U.S. novel private sector space activities to improve U.S. Government awareness; and
- Establishes a standing Private Sector Space Activities Interagency Steering Group to formulate longer term policy and best practices to inform the work of regulatory agencies.
The U.S. space private sector is experiencing rapid innovation through investments from private and equity entities, as well as from the U.S. Government. The U.S. Government is partnering with the commercial space industry to advance national objectives including space exploration, national security, combating the climate crisis, and international partnerships, including building commercial space stations, in-space assembly and manufacturing, extracting and using resources on the Moon, addressing the hazard of space debris, and fueling stations in orbit.
Ongoing collaboration with the commercial space industry and additional stakeholders will be required to ensure that government and private sector approaches and interests are aligned.