Credit: DSI

Credit: DSI

Two U.S. space mining companies issued separate statements yesterday signaling their thumbs up thanks for Congressional legislation that enables the commercial exploration and use of space resources.

The U.S. Senate yesterday passed legislation — Title IV of S.1297, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitive Act of 2015.

This legislation promotes the right of U.S. citizens to engage in commercial exploration for, and commercial recovery of, space resources in accordance with international obligations and subject to supervision by the U.S. government.

Legal clarity

“We will be watching closely as this legislation makes it way from Congress to the White House and is signed into law by the President,” said Chris Lewicki, President and Chief Asteroid Miner of Planetary Resources, Inc. of Redmond, Washington.

Credit: Planetary Resources, Inc.

Credit: Planetary Resources, Inc.

“We are pleased to see the beginnings of legal clarity in the field of space resource utilization,” said Rick Tumlinson, Chair of Deep Space Industries (DSI) of Moffett Field, California.

Owning asteroid resources

According to DSI, Title IV “will spur an influx of capital into the industry and encourage entities to further develop plans and technologies to extract minerals from the vast numbers of asteroids and other resource-rich bodies in the solar system.”

Lewicki of Planetary Resources noted that the U. S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015 “recognizes rights of U.S. citizens to own asteroid resources they obtain as property, encourages commercial exploration, and allows companies to explore and recover resources from asteroids, free from harmful interference.”

Bicameral, bipartisan bill

The passage of H.R. 2262, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, a bicameral, bipartisan bill that encourages competitiveness, reflects the needs of a modern-day U.S. commercial space industry, and guarantees operation of the International Space Station until at least 2024.

The bill builds on key elements in S. 1297 that the Commerce Committee approved earlier this year and passed the Senate on August 4, 2015.

Extending life of the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Extending life of the International Space Station.
Credit: NASA

Key provisions

The bill, in part, offers a number of provisions, such as:

Extends the Operation of the International Space Station

Provides a four-year extension of the International Space Station (ISS) until at least 2024 by directing the NASA Administrator to take all necessary steps to ensure the ISS remains a viable and productive facility capable of utilization including for scientific research and commercial applications.

Ensures Stability for Continued Development and Growth of the Commercial Space Sector

Provides an extension of the regulatory learning period through September 30, 2023 so that the commercial space sector can continue to mature and innovate before the Department of Transportation transitions to a regulatory approach. The current learning period expires on March 31, 2016.

Extends Indemnification for Commercial Launches

Extends through September 30, 2025 a key risk sharing provision in current law critical to keeping a level playing field in the global market for U.S. commercial space enterprises.

Identifies Appropriate Oversight for the Commercial Development of Space

Directs the Office of Science and Technology Policy, in consultation with the Department of Transportation, Secretary of State, NASA and other relevant Federal agencies, to assess and recommend approaches for oversight of commercial non-governmental activities conducted in space that would prioritize safety, utilize existing authorities, minimize burdens on industry, promote the U.S. commercial space sector, and meet U.S. obligations under international treaties.

Mining asteroid resources loom large in the future. Courtesy: Texas A&M

Mining asteroid resources loom large in the future.
Courtesy: Texas A&M

Space Resource Exploration and Utilization (Asteroid Mining)

Establishes a legal right to resources a U.S. citizen may recover in space consistent with current law and international obligations of the United States. Directs the President to facilitate and promote the space resource exploration and recovery.

Updates Space Launch System

Provides a use policy for NASA’s heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System.

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