WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, the House Subcommittee on Space will mark up the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017, representing the House’s next steps in establishing a light touch regulatory regime for innovative activities in outer space, such as sending private rovers to the Moon, conducting on-orbit satellite servicing, and mining asteroids.

The bill, just introduced by full committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), Subcommittee chair Brian Babin (R-TX), and Rep. Bridenstine (R-OK), also addresses the supposed “regulatory gap” identified by the Obama administration in response to a Congressional directive contained in the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (CSLCA), passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in late 2015.

We applaud the House for moving forward on outer space regulation,” said Jim Dunstan, TechFreedom Senior Adjunct Fellow and founder of Mobius Legal Group. “These are necessary steps to ensure that we have a vibrant, growing space economy, and private investment will flow into this sector only if there is regulatory certainty. TechFreedom has helped champion the notion of a ‘Mission Certification’ approach instead of the more onerous and less transparent ‘Mission Authorization’ regime advocated by the Obama administration. The crucial difference between the two approaches is whether innovation and experimentation in space is the default, or whether it requires the government’s permission.”

Dunstan testified on May 23 before the Senate’s Space Subcommittee on the United States’ obligations to “authorize” and “continually supervise” the activities of its private citizens under Article VI of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.

The bill takes the right approach to governing innovative space activities,” said TechFreedom President Berin Szóka. “Americans have a fundamental right to move out into the High Frontier without faceless bureaucrats being able to stop them on a whim. As with any legislation, the ‘Devil’s in the details,’ and some changes may be necessary as this legislation moves forward. Standing up a completely new regulatory office will be a challenge, and Congress must both fund it and make sure it has the necessary clout in the sometimes mysterious ‘inter-agency process’ to ensure that Congress’ light touch intent is not throttled by entrenched interests that may not be supportive of private entities playing around in their formerly exclusive sandbox.”


We can be reached for comment at media@techfreedom.org. See our other work on space law, including:

  • Tech Policy Podcast #165: Regulating the Universe
  • Our statement on the need for an update to US space law
  • Parts 1, 2 and 3 of our space law series on the Tech Policy Podcast with Jim Dunstan