House to Take Up Launch Liability Indemnification Extension on Tuesday-corrected

House to Take Up Launch Liability Indemnification Extension on Tuesday-corrected

On its first day of legislative business after the elections — and a long pre-election recess — the House will take up a bill to extend the government’s authority to provide third-party indemnification to launch services companies for certain amounts of money in case there is a launch accident.

H.R. 6586 is listed in National Journal’s Daybook for consideration on November 13 along with several other bills.  The bill was only introduced yesterday.  The full text of the bill is not yet available, but the brief description in the Congressional Record, says it will extend “application of certain space launch liability provisions through 2014.”

According to the Congressional Record, the sponsors of the bill are:

  • Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-MS), chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee
  • Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), chairman of the full committee
  • Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), one of three contenders to replace Mr. Hall as chairman
  • Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), another one of the three contenders to replace Mr. Hall as chairman
  • Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), vice chairman of the full committee and another one of the three contenders to replace Mr. Hall as chairman
  • Rep.  Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), House Majority Whip
  • Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)

The current authority for the government, through the Office of Commercial Space Transportation at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), to indemnify launch service providers for losses between $500 million and $2.7 billion expires on December 31.   The cognizant House and Senate committees held hearings on the issue earlier this year and all indications were that they would extend it, but the question was for how long and whether there would be any other issues addressed.  The Government Accountability Office (GAO), for example, wants the FAA to update its methodology for calculating Maximum Probable Loss (MPL).  

Under the current third-party liability indemnificaiton regime, launch service companies must purchase insurance to cover the MPL as calculated by the FAA, up to $500 million.  The government indemnifies the companies for amounts between $500 million and $2.7 billion, and companies would have to purchase insurance for amounts above that.

Although the House has not been meeting for legislative business since September 21, it has been meeting regularly in pro forma sessions where bills like this can be introduced.

Editor’s Note:  The list of the bill’s sponsors was incomplete in an earlier version of this article.  All seven are now listed.

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