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Space Government United States

XCOR COO Warns That Proposed State Department Rule Could Cripple Space Tourism 105

MarkWhittington writes "Andrew Nelson, the chief operating officer of XCOR Aerospace, a company that proposes to take paying customers on suborbital jaunts on its Lynx rocketplane, posted some good news/bad news concerning some proposed rule changes from the State Department on June 3, 2013. On the good news side, the Department of State has proposed changes (PDF) that would move satellites from the Department of Defense's Munitions list, where they have been since 1999, to the Department of Commerce's commerce control list. 'This is a great step for the industry. Since the time commercial satellites were placed on the munitions list in 1999, the commercial satellite industry was almost wiped out.' On the bad news side, the State Department proposes to place commercial manned spacecraft on the DOD munitions list, making it very difficult if not impossible to fly them outside the United States. 'This is the same backward path provided to the US satellite manufacturing and launch community two decades ago that almost decimated that industry.'"
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XCOR COO Warns That Proposed State Department Rule Could Cripple Space Tourism

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  • It is obvious. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by flayzernax ( 1060680 ) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @03:56PM (#43907827)

    That one person or very few people in our government are exerting almost complete totalitarian control over what goes up and comes down from space.

    This is patently UN American. It is the antithesis to the spirit of freedom and exploration.

    Can we please take this power away from these few individuals and at least tie it up in bureaucratic red tape so we can build an industry to lobby for its control later on before we miss this golden opportunity...

    Oh well. Screw it. It never was about science, tech, or enlightenment (despite the all seeing eye being on everything), always politics, greed, and fear.

  • Virgin Intergalactic (Score:4, Interesting)

    by intermodal ( 534361 ) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @03:57PM (#43907831) Homepage Journal

    Does this mean Virgin Intergalactic will be offshoring their operation, like what happened with RSA when the government pressured them on crypto?

  • Take'm down! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by canadiannomad ( 1745008 ) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @04:12PM (#43907955) Homepage

    Once again the US trying to enforce laws outside of its jurisdiction...

    So my question is what would they do about it? Shoot down a rocket with 12 rich blokes on a joy ride into space? I would be interested in how the media would cover that...

    I actually don't mind the DOD being interested in such vessels, but they likely they need to (re-)assess its internal processes into how it will track, monitor and authorize vessels heading into space.

  • Re:Take'm down! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kaiser423 ( 828989 ) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @04:21PM (#43908035)

    Well, considering that the US DOD is just about the only agency that tracks everything into orbit (other than Russia but we cooperate and share significantly with them, so it's about the same) pretty much everyone has to ask their permission first. Otherwise they risk slamming into some piece of space debris, micro satellite or other very bad thing. The Europeans have a pretty good system now, but they don't track as many objects or as many small objects as the US does.

    So, really it's about practicality. No insurer and no sane person would put a space plane into orbit without first checking with the DOD that that orbit was safe. Given that most launches I've been party to have had to have their orbit adjusted some either in launch time or actual orbital trajectories due to the potential for collisions, I think that they would have a really, really hard time getting any insurance or any sane person to sign on if the DOD wasn't going to vet the trajectory before launch. Sure, a satellite could risk it, but not an orbital space tourism plane with people on board.

  • by intermodal ( 534361 ) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @04:22PM (#43908037) Homepage Journal

    This is presently just a proposed rule. If Branson moves quickly, he can do whatever he pleases within the present rules.

  • Re:It is obvious. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by flayzernax ( 1060680 ) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @04:22PM (#43908045)

    Or at least we should make a Department of Space Transportation. Unrelated to Homeland Security. It could still be under the executive branch, and Civil.

    The only reasoning behind this crazy system I can envision is NORAD and Russia's counterpart. Not wanting to ever see launches without them being scheduled over DEFCON type situations.

    Still munititions is way overboard for a manned space mission. It is laughable.

    Or just extend international maritime law into space. We have other treaties as well. I don't think they stipulate issues like this. In fact the ruling is probably to play into the wording of those treaties deliberately.

  • Re:It is obvious. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by VortexCortex ( 1117377 ) <VortexCortex AT ... trograde DOT com> on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @04:25PM (#43908059)

    Unsurprisingly, also addressed in Planetes. [] Space terrorists believed the unfair regulations against lesser nations were being used to the economic and political gain of the more powerful nations while creating an even wider gulf between more and less powerful nations.

    TLDNW: When you look down on our precious blue planet from space, there are no borders.

    All the politics, greed, and fear in the Universe is dwarfed by the vulnerability of the planet, and our need for progress outside our home among the stars in order to protect it and thus all life in this corner of the cosmos. If that progress be spurned by power and greed, so be it. If cautiousness is not minded proportionate to the risk, we stand more to loose than a few years of progress. I say let the small space satellites and shuttles advance. Just like nuclear weapons, if the enemy were to bombard us with mass from orbital platforms, then so will we be able to.

    Mutually assured destruction sounds evil, but when I think about it, that's all we've ever had since before the first tribe of man came to trust their members. The only way to gain trust and prosper as a species is to cautiously operate in the same spaces of technology and industry; To shake hands and mutually cause any hidden knives to fall from our sleeves; To become more interdependent on each other; To cautiously take equal risks while never loosing sight of the worlds all mankind is charged to protect.

    It's easy to dismiss such caution as irrational fear, corrupt greed, and political control. The truth is that right now we only have one world. One basket carries all our eggs at present. I would say extreme cautiousness is warranted, but should be proscribed according to actual risk, not perceived threat. If we can not take the risk of shaking hands with those we feel threatened by, they can never prove non threatening and can never become our friends. The more self sustaining footholds life wins itself in the Universe, the more reckless we can be, the more progress we can take at risk.

    TLDR: Let's not throw caution to the wind and fuck it all up forever.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @06:23PM (#43909081)

    SpaceShip One is just a starter proposal - all he ever wants out of it is to cover his costs.

    When you really start getting tourism going you're going to need something bigger. Something like SKYLON...which IS 100% British...

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