Today, TechFreedom filed comments in response to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on mitigation methods for the creation of orbital debris, related to launch upper stages.

“The FAA likely lacks the statutory authority needed to promulgate rules on orbital debris,” said James E. Dunstan, TechFreedom’s General Counsel. “Although the NPRM properly identifies the nature and extent of this issue, the agency is not free to promulgate rules beyond the powers delegated by Congress. The entire purpose of this proceeding appears to have little to nothing to do with the traditional role of the FAA in protecting the health and safety of the uninvolved public from launch and reentry activities. There has never been a recorded incident of injury caused by a reentering man-made space object, not even from large objects, such as the spent upper stages to which the proposed rules are directed.”

“The NPRM is correct that NEPA is not implicated in this proceeding,” Dunstan continued. “TechFreedom is pleased that the NPRM specifically concludes that any orbital debris regulations are categorically exempt from environmental assessments or environmental impact statements under NEPA. NEPA is quickly becoming the weapon of choice for those opposed to the U.S. commercial space industry, or even by aerospace companies wishing to stop, or at least slow down, their competitors. On multiple occasions, TechFreedom has filed amicus briefs in appeals of FCC decisions related to satellite licensing where claims were made that the FCC must undertake an environmental assessment of the impact of their actions.”

“Regulations should not allow foreign competitors the opportunity to overtake U.S. leadership in space,” Dunstan concluded. “Space operations cannot be made so difficult, or so expensive, that no American company can afford to participate. This is especially true if the United States is alone in imposing these regulatory burdens. While the U.S. should take the lead on the critical orbital debris issue, that leadership must be at the highest level—and  include clear congressional direction on which federal agencies are responsible for taking charge. But at the same time America leads, it can’t hamstring the U.S. launch industry and allow foreign competitors—especially those that do not share our democratic values—to catch up with and surpass U.S. dominance in commercial space.”


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