Soto, Flores Introduce Bill to Streamline Space Launch Communications

Washington, D.C. — Today, Congressman Darren Soto (D-Fla.) and Bill Flores (R-TX) introduced the bipartisan Leveraging American Understanding of Next-generation Challenges Exploring Space (LAUNCHES) Act.  This bill will eliminate unnecessary barriers that hamper the ability of private companies to obtain spectrum licenses required to launch rockets from U.S. soil into space.  The bill comes ahead of the SpaceX launch on Wednesday, in which Reps. Soto and Flores will be in attendance.

“Space exploration has long been an integral part of our national goal to advance humanity, science and innovation,” said Rep. Soto. “However, the extent to which regulations and restrictions have been imposed in the rocket launching process only delay those who seek to make progress on this frontier. As we prepare for the SpaceX launch from Central Florida, the LAUNCHES Act is absolutely critical in enabling future developments and maintaining global competitiveness in the space sector. Curiosity is a part of the American spirit, and it’s past time we modernize the launch process in a way that’s beneficial to both the federal government and private companies.”

“For the first time since 2011 we will be launching U.S. astronauts on U.S. spacecraft from American Soil,” said Rep. Flores. “We are in the midst of a new era in space flight history marked by unprecedented cooperation between the federal government and U.S. based private companies. This legislation will remove outdated regulatory barriers to efficiently and safely support space flight as we build a future of space travel and exploration that is not reliant on the technologies or manpower of any other nation.”

“The Commercial Spaceflight Federation applauds the introduction of the Leveraging American Understanding of Next-generation Challenges Exploring Space (LAUNCHES) Act. This timely and important legislation supports America’s national security, civil space, and commercial space objectives by modernizing federal launch spectrum licensing regulations. The LAUNCHES Act protects precious federal spectrum and encourages continued commercial space industry growth while reducing unnecessary paperwork — a win-win for both the government and the private sector,” said Eric Stallmer, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.

Currently, all commercial missions launching from the U.S. to space utilize Government-owned spectrum to communicate with the rockets during the 10 minutes it takes to get to orbit. Ahead of launch, private companies must apply to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to receive special temporary authority (STA) to use this spectrum. In a tedious and inefficient process, the FCC coordinates each separate STA license with multiple federal agencies that could conceivably  be using the spectrum at the same time. This process has become highly burdensome to both the Government and commercial users applying for use of this spectrum.

The LAUNCHES Act aims to streamline the bureaucratic elements of the rocket launching process, making it easier for private companies to obtain authorization and temporary use of the necessary spectrum.  The legislation:

  • Requires the FCC to streamline the launch authorization process for commercial launches, which would eliminate the STA process, permit multi-launch authorization and automate the frequency review process.
  • Is consistent with Space Policy Directive-2, issued by the President in May 2018, to streamline federal spectrum regulations and minimize regulatory burdens.

The full text of the bill can be read here.

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