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Space Government United States Politics

Private Spaceflight Law Shot Down 50

Posted by michael
from the falling-down-on-new-jersey dept.
wiggles writes "MSNBC says that bill HR3752, which allows private, suborbital tourist flights, has died. We'll have to wait until next year for this one. According to the article, 'The bill would have put private-sector suborbital spaceflights on much firmer regulatory footing. It was approved overwhelmingly by the House back in March but languished in the Senate for months.'"
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Private Spaceflight Law Shot Down

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  • Mexico (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Golias (176380) on Thursday November 18, 2004 @11:58AM (#10854395)
    If I'm President Vicente Fox, I've got dollar signs in my eyes right now.

    Take a trip to Mazetlan, see the beautiful sights, enjoy some tequilla, and then fly into outer space as the highlight of your vacation!
    • I think maybe I'd leave the tequila drinking until after I returned to gravity.... just imagine your stomach contents floating around like those M&Ms ;-p

      • Re:Mexico (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Golias (176380) on Thursday November 18, 2004 @01:31PM (#10855691)
        That reminds me of a funny (somewhat apocraphal) space-flight puking story.

        For one NASA flight, a frog was brought along on a mission for research testing, and as soon as they entered a zero-G environment, the frog not only puked, but actually inverted it's entire actual stomach outside of it's mouth, wiped the stomach walls clean with it's little front feet in a frenzied panic, and then shoved the stomache back down it's throat. After that, the it was fine.

        There have been many times, particularilly after drinking tequila, in which I wished I was capable of doing that.
        • Re:Mexico (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          it's entire actual stomach
          it's mouth
          it's little front feet
          it's throat

          "its".
        • I like your comment so much I added the last line as my sig ;-p

          thanks
        • There have been many times, particularilly after drinking tequila, in which I wished I was capable of doing that.

          I'm sure that would be a really great way to pick up girls at a party, chuckle.

          -
  • by revscat (35618) on Thursday November 18, 2004 @12:05PM (#10854512) Journal
    Unless the public gets all in an uproar about this, I don't see this as happening. It could potential interfere with the US military's superiority in this field, and what the Pentagon wants, it gets. They have far, far, FAR more money available in their PR budget than private entrepreneurs (either individually or collectively) ever will, and the result will most likely be determined accordingly.
    • Unless the public gets all in an uproar about this, I don't see this as happening. It could potential interfere with the US military's superiority in this field, and what the Pentagon wants, it gets. They have far, far, FAR more money available in their PR budget than private entrepreneurs (either individually or collectively) ever will, and the result will most likely be determined accordingly.

      Right, because we have a vast fleet of military spaceships, and it's not like anybody could ever put a commercia
      • Right, because we have a vast fleet of military spaceships, and it's not like anybody could ever put a commercial satelite into orbit from a French-owned island near the Equator.

        Of course none of that is true. But the Pentagon has the best means of accomplishing those things -- budgetary and expertise -- and they don't want any new kids on the block messing with their potential superiority. Further, they have repeatedly exhibited their hostility towards private space ventures, and with this administration

      • it's not like anybody could ever put a commercial satelite into orbit from a French-owned island near the Equator.
        French Guiana isn't an island. It borders Suriname and Brazil. http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ fg.html [cia.gov]
    • It could potential interfere with the US military's superiority in this field, and what the Pentagon wants, it gets.

      It has nothing to do with the Pentagon.

      Sen Inofe from Oklahoma held it up because the definition of a suborbital rocket ("`suborbital rocket' means a rocket-propelled vehicle intended for flight on a suborbital trajectory whose thrust is greater than its lift for the majority of the powered portion of its flight") could be read to mean that Rocketplane, a venture in his state, would fall un
  • Moving Forward (Score:2, Interesting)

    by wbechard (830613)
    I would really like to see the private space industry open up. Hopefully the bill that does get passed isn't too restrictive for new private companies looking into the space industry. Governments should do what they can to promote private sector growth in the space industry, not stifle it. New startups in the space industry could spark a whole new economic boom, and if not an economic boom, at least the start of a new revolution. Call me optimistic, but these are simply my views.
  • by CodeWanker (534624) on Thursday November 18, 2004 @12:23PM (#10854755) Journal
    among other countries. Brazil would love to add world's only commercial spaceport to its list of national trophies/tourist attractions. So would Malaysia. So would a ton of other countries. If we don't get this approved, we'll see a lot of tech and cash go elsewhere.
    • Not being equatorial, the USA isn't even in an ideal location for spaceflight, and it's not even possible to put a space elevator here. It's time for the US to wake up to the idea that it's going to be bypassed when it comes to the commercialization of space if it doesn't develop some compelling reason for it to be included. (I say it, but I do live here myself... I'm talking about the government I guess.) That means we need to build more technology and expertise, and that means we need to get into space co
      • Not being equatorial, the USA isn't even in an ideal location for spaceflight

        Obviously the US needs a state on the equator - prefferably on the east coast so launches go out over the ocean.

        What's that Mr Bush? Brazil needs liberating? YES SIR! I'll get right on it!

        -
  • by sevinkey (448480) on Thursday November 18, 2004 @12:23PM (#10854757)
    Since when was space the 51st state? And if so, since when has there been a state that I can't go to as a citizen?

    If I was looking to make money off of this, I'd go to Canada or Mexico, start sending people out into space, and make millions while the whole thing gets fought out in court, generating millions of dollars worth of free advertising. I'd probably end up selling the company before a decision ever comes around, and go live in Costa Rica.

    What's the US gonna do, shoot down passenger space craft just because congress can't get a bill through? Talk about a PR nightmare!
  • No tears yet (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Shihar (153932) on Thursday November 18, 2004 @12:32PM (#10854887)
    My understand was that this bill was the beginings of regulating the private space industry. Personally, I see absolutely no loss if that is the case. I would rather leave the field upon and relativly unregulated other then getting a permit to go up until we have a better understanding as to how the industry is shaping up. Let the leaders take the risks and get out in front. If they want to throw their lives away, let that be their choice. The only time the government should step in, is to ensure that public safety is not in danger.
    • I may revise my opinion after finding out more facts, but it strikes me that it doesn't make sense to regulate too restrictively an industry that's in its pioneering phase.*

      Concern for passenger and crew safety is commendable of course but let's face it, we're dealing with an inherently risky venture here and everyone involved in a space flight would know this regardless of whatever safety standard is mandated.

      It's in the industry's own self-interest to implement the highest possible safety standards itse
    • Yeah, it'll be their choice to risk their lives, but if they die it'll inevitably be the choice of their families to sue the pants off the people who built the rockets. So if any of the companies involve with this make any slip ups, the fledgling industry could very well be destroyed by lawsuits ... that seems to have become the social climate in America over the past several years. Quite unfortunate.
  • Prohibits operating a reusable suborbital rocket under a permit for carrying any property or human being for compensation or hire.

    Is this suggesting that the government would be prohibited from being compensated, or that private industry would be prohibited from being compensated. If that latter, then ...?

    In short, although I initially supported this bill (i.e., before I actually read any of it), now I'm not so sure...

  • Another useful space-related bill did get passed [house.gov]:

    The Senate last night passed, and sent to the President, a Science Committee bill (H.R. 5245) to extend the law under which the U.S. government insures companies that launch satellites for damages or deaths sustained by individuals who were not involved in the launch. The House had passed the bill in October by unanimous consent, and Senate approval was also by unanimous consent; the President is expected to sign it.

    The bill will extend the insurance, known

  • "The FAA could not administer safety regulations unless someone is killed on one of these flights, until 2012. A provision like that in itself, we believe, requires a more serious explanation than what we've received so far," [congressional panel mouthpiece Steve] Hansen said.

    What more of an explanation do they need than this: Space is hard. People will die exploring and exploiting space. They'll know what they're getting into before they close the hatch, and will agree to take that chance.

    That pretty
  • Laws do not allow people to do things, laws prevent people from doing things.

    There are no laws preventing commercial space flight. This was an attempt to regulate it and therefore restrict commercial space flight. This bill failing is a good thing for privite space missions. It would have been bad had it passed.
    • Re:This is nonsense (Score:4, Informative)

      by learn fast (824724) on Thursday November 18, 2004 @03:57PM (#10857671)
      "There are no laws preventing commercial space flight."

      No, it's been regulated by the FAA since 1991. This bill would have just changed the regulations a bit. In any event this is still suborbital flight we're talking about.
      • More importantly, the law would have specified in more direct and clear language exactly what government agency has direct control and authority over spaceflight as launched from U.S. soil and through U.S. airspace.

        Other agencies, like the FCC, FBI, and even NASA have all been wanting to get their hands into the cookie jar, and with the bill it is very obvious that only the FAA can run the show except for some very minor issues (like the FCC controlling telemetry frequencies for spacecraft). For that this
    • Re:This is nonsense (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Perhaps you didn't notice that half the battle for the X-Prize contestants was getting government approval to fly.

      When they got approval, the gov't said "ok, you can fly, but not with paying passengers."

      I agree that it should be as you say, but the U.S. isn't that free of a country anymore.
  • by zogger (617870)
    Great! I hope they move it lock stock and barrel out of the United States to some nation that has some vision and some nads. Like Brazil perhaps. I also hope that software production gets moved to places without IP patents. I hope this gets raked through the news up and down sideways to show the US people what complete ridiculous incompetent morons they have that they keep voting for,cycle after cycle as they get brainwashed into "not wasting their votes" and what has really happened to the government. The
  • manifold: time called. it said just launch while pretending to do 'tests'
  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Friday November 19, 2004 @06:09PM (#10869665) Journal
    If any of you vote in Minnesota, you may want to call up Jim Oberstar (D-Minn) and voice your concerns...

    From here [msn.com]:

    The Republican leadership tried to push the bill through by suspending the chamber's rules through a voice vote, but Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn. -- who voiced firm opposition to the bill on safety grounds -- called for a yea-and-nay breakdown and noted that a quorum was not present. That stymied the GOP's procedural maneuver, and further action was postponed.

    The bill's sponsor, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., argued during the 40-minute debate that new legislation was needed to resolve the Federal Aviation Administration's role in regulating piloted suborbital space launches, and that the FAA would be able to step in if a spacecraft was found to be unsafe for the crew or passengers. Oberstar, on the other hand, believes that the bill is too lax in that regard, and that the FAA would have to stand by until someone is killed or gravely injured.

    Rohrabacher said failure to act could drive the infant suborbital space travel industry out of the country. "Don't strangle this industry and drive these entrepreneurs offshore," he pleaded.
    • Yeah, how dare a Congressman try to prevent the other party from making laws when most of Congress isn't even around? I don't care what position a bill is taking; if it can't be passed under normal congressional procedure it's just pushing us one step closer to an oligarchy ruled by 4 or 5 top Republicans.

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