Trump Signs Space Policy Directive-2 Initiating Reform of Commercial Space Regulations – UPDATE 2

Trump Signs Space Policy Directive-2 Initiating Reform of Commercial Space Regulations – UPDATE 2

President Trump signed Space Policy Directive-2 (SPD-2) today with Vice President Mike Pence at his side.  SPD-2 implements recommendations made by the White House National Space Council at its February 2018 meeting.  Pence chairs the Space Council.  The Directive is focused on reforming commercial space regulations and creating a “one-stop shop” for the commercial space sector at the Department of Commerce.

The President’s and Vice President’s schedules issued this morning stated that the signing would take place at 11:00 am ET, but other events intervened and it did not take place until just after 5:00 pm ET.   The White House posted a photo on Instagram.

President Donald Trump signs Space Policy Directive-2. May 24, 2018. Photo credit: White House.

The overall goal of SPD-2 is ensuring that government regulations promote economic growth; minimize uncertainty for taxpayers, investors and private industry; protect national security, public safety, and foreign policy interests; and encourage American leadership in space commerce.

Its key provisions are as follows.

  • The Secretary of Transportation is to release a new regulatory system for commercial launches and reentries.  The Secretary is to consider requiring a single license for all types of commercial space flight launch and reentry operations and replacing prescriptive requirements with performance-based criteria.
  • The Secretary of Commerce is to review current remote sensing regulations and address any that are outdated and do not conform with the Directive’s overall goals.
  • The Secretary of Commerce is to transmit a plan on creating a “one-stop shop” for administering and regulating commercial space flight activities within 30 days.
  • The Department of Commerce and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy are directed to work with the Federal Communications Commission (an independent agency that does not report to the President) and present a report to the President on how to improve global competitiveness of U.S. space radio frequency policies, regulation and activities at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and other multilateral forums.
  • The Executive Secretary of the National Space Council is directed to review export licensing regulations affecting commercial space activities and report to the President within 180 days.

Although the Trump Administration is embarked on a deregulatory push across the government, a White House official said today that the Administration recognizes that adequate resources must be provided to the government agencies assigned to implement whatever regulations exist.

A case in point is the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA/AST), which regulates, facilitates and promotes commercial space launches and reentries.  It has been striving to increase its staff over the past several years to keep pace with the burgeoning industry and consequent increase in license applications.  The Trump Administration requested $21.8 million for FAA/AST for FY2019, a cut from its FY2018 level of $22.6 million. The House Appropriations Committee, however, just approved a $3.1 million increase above the President’s request.

SPD-2 may signal a change of heart on the Administration’s part, though that will not be known until the FY2020 budget request is released next year.

Many of the results of actions required by SPD-2 may not be evident before then in any case.  The White House official pointed out that it takes time to get regulations through the writing, review and comment process, and although some of the reorganization at the Department of Commerce can be accomplished by Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross himself, creating the “one-stop shop” requires legislative action.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine issued a statement extolling the “light but focused regulatory touch” the Trump Administration is pursuing that will allow entrepreneurs to pursue innovation “and allows the government to purchase services it needs while we focus on returning to the Moon, expanding our presence on Mars, and pushing deeper into space.”

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) called it “another big win for America” that “mirrors” the goals of the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act that passed the House last month.

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) and the Satellite Industry Association (SIA) both applauded the move.

CSF Chairman of the Board Alan Stern called it a “tremendous accomplishment by this Administration on behalf of America’s commercial space industry.”  Eric Stallmer, CSF’s President, added that “the space frontier became a little more ‘open’ to the American people today.”

SIA President Tom Stroup said the Directive “acknowledges the tremendous industry transformation that is currently underway.”  SIA is “encouraged by the mandate to reform and modernize” the regulatory environment and by the requirement for the report on U.S. space radio frequency spectrum policies.

Editor’s Note:  This article has been updated twice.

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