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Media Contact: 800-787-7223 or press@space-frontier.org
Congress Should Cut the Red Tape Grounding Reusable Rockets

Kansas Senator Sam Brownback and California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher
Kansas Senator Sam Brownback and California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher chaired the joint hearing on reusable rocket technology. Photos courtesy U.S. Congress.
Los Angeles, July 28, 2003 – The Space Frontier Foundation congratulated Congress for taking the first steps to opening space to the public by holding hearings on regulatory barriers that may well ground an entire new spaceship industry before it even gets to fly.

"Some insightful leaders in Congress recognize reusable commercial space transportation may well be the next technology revolution following the Internet, and are trying to make sure this incredible new industry gets a chance to spread its wings before being caged by the wrong types of regulations," said the Foundation's Rick Tumlinson. "We applaud their efforts and urge them to continue this important work."

The joint Senate and House hearings were held last week and chaired by Kansas Senator Sam Brownback and California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. The event began to spotlight a confused and inhibiting regulatory environment that may kill American leadership in commercial space transportation, and keep the American people from flying into space themselves as part of a potentially multi-billion-dollar space travel industry.

In contrast with the Internet, which began with few regulations to stifle its growth, several witnesses testified that regulatory hurdles are the biggest factors keeping rockets on the ground and keeping people from going into space. Jon Kutler, CEO and Founder of Quarterdeck Investment Partners, LLC, made the situation very clear in his testimony: "The only question the Wright Brothers faced as they started their tests was ‘can we?’... The question ... has become ‘will we be allowed?’" Mr. Kutler then suggested that the government take a Hippocratic approach to "do no harm" when evaluating regulatory structure because "an inappropriate degree of regulatory control ... would kill the investment raising ability of otherwise fundable companies."

"This is a potential disaster for our leadership in the world of space technology," said Tumlinson. "We have people like Dennis Tito, the first person ever to purchase a ticket to space, who are ready to invest millions of dollars to kick-start this new industry. They aren't afraid of the new vehicle concepts or safety risks as much as they are afraid of the red tape. And we may lose them all if Congress doesn't act now to clean up the mess."

The Foundation believes confusion over who oversees this new class of vehicles has condemned it to be regulated out of existence. The group wants Congress to re-state and strengthen its intent that the Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) has full and exclusive authority to license Reusable Launch Vehicles. It further urges that AST be moved back out of the FAA, as it was when it was created in 1984 as a separate agency. The Foundation backs the testimony of the CEO of SpaceX, Elon Musk, who stated in the hearings: "Reaffirming the authority of the AST office...as the primary regulatory agent for space vehicles", but thinks it may not go far enough. Congress may need to move the group out of the control of the FAA, in order for us to gain real, reliable access to space. "That is what true access to space is about," said Musk, "creating affordable ways for people, payloads, satellites, and experiments to develop the space frontier."


The Space Frontier Foundation is an organization of people dedicated to opening the Space Frontier to human settlement as rapidly as possible. Our goals include protecting the Earth's fragile biosphere and creating a freer and more prosperous life for each generation by using the unlimited energy and material resources of space. Our purpose is to unleash the power of free enterprise and lead a united humanity permanently into the Solar System.

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Our definition of a "frontier enabling" technology or policy is one which has as its effect the acceleration of the creation of low cost access to the space frontier for private citizens and companies, enables or accelerates our use of space resources, and/or accelerates the rate at which wealth can be generated in space. In other words, is the project or policy going to provide a return on the national investment, if we define "return" to be the economically sustainable human habitation of space?

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