Trump to sign directive to reform commercial space regulations

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President Trump is set to sign a directive on Thursday ordering federal agencies to implement reforms aimed at reducing restrictions on commercial space companies.

The measure, the second Trump has signed as president, directs administration officials to carry out recommendations made by the National Space Council earlier this year, a White House official told The Hill.

The suggested regulations include reforming the commercial space-launch licensing process through the Department of Transportation and consolidating existing offices into a “one-stop shop” housed in the Department of Commerce that would handle space-related regulatory requests.

Trump is expected to sign the measure in an event that is closed to the press.


The White House official said most of the existing regulations were written prior to when companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic began developing technology focused on commercial space travel. 

“They’re working with regulatory systems that were not written with them in mind. And so what the president is saying here is, ‘look, we recognize these regulations are out of date, and they need to be changed to give more flexibility to the industry,’” the official said.

“We really believe that this will be a big leap forward for them, and really help out a lot in what they’re tying to do.” the official added.

One reform calls for the Department of Transportation to propose a new licensing system by Feb. 1, 2019. Jeffrey Rosen, the deputy secretary of Transportation, said earlier this year that the agency would look to establish a more accelerated, streamlined process for licensing approval for space launches and re-entries.

Another recommendation would designate the Department of Commerce as a hub for space commerce, including remote sensing, business and trade promotion and spectrum policy. It’s unclear who would lead that office.

Other recommendations focus on addressing the radio-frequency spectrum used for commercial space activities and evaluating export controls on commercial space vehicles.

The space-related reforms came at the recommendation of the National Space Council, an executive body formed under former President George H.W. Bush that was disbanded in 1993 before being reestablished by Trump last year.

The council, which is chaired by Vice President Pence, discussed the recommended reforms at its Feb. 21 meeting in Florida. 

The newly launched council first met last October, with the president signing his first space policy directive two months later. That directive ordered NASA to send American astronauts back to the Moon, and eventually to Mars. 

The White House official told The Hill that Trump’s second space policy directive will ultimately play a role in sending American astronauts back to the Moon.

Regulatory reform, the official said, will allow companies to “prove out their business model so they can build up the hardware, and the experience and the technological know-how that will be crucial for being partners for us as we go to the Moon.”

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