Senators Udall, Heinrich Welcome Passage of New Law to Foster Innovation, Increase Competitiveness of U.S. Space Industry

U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich praised passage of the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act to modernize commercial space regulations and encourage competitiveness in the industry. Udall and Heinrich are longtime champions of modernizing U.S. policies governing commercial spaceflight. The bill, which President Obama signed last week, provides an essential legal framework that will enable New Mexico’s commercial spaceflight industry to grow in the years ahead.

The new law will extend until 2025 a space launch risk-sharing provision that is crucial to maintaining the global competitiveness of U.S. commercial space companies. It includes measures championed by Udall and Heinrich to foster innovation in the industry while enabling safety advances for participants. These include encouraging the development of industry safety standards and streamlining the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) permitting process for launch vehicles designed for multiple trips to space. The law also will extend International Space Station (ISS) operations through at least 2024, enabling commercial entities to continue leveraging the ISS as a unique asset in low-Earth orbit.

“The commercial spaceflight industry creates jobs in New Mexico and strengthens our economy,” said Udall, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee. “Today’s companies are early pioneers in a still-developing industry with enormous potential, including in New Mexico. This bill makes essential updates that will modernize and clarify the law to foster innovation and increase competitiveness. I’m pleased that members of Congress worked together in a bipartisan and bicameral manner to advance forward-looking spaceflight policies to help sustain American leadership in space.”

“New Mexico has a unique opportunity to take advantage of the emerging commercial spaceflight industry,” Heinrich said. “Our state has long been the frontier of space exploration. Assets such as Spaceport America, our national laboratories, research universities, and innovative private companies will put New Mexico in a starring role in the next stage of commercial space development. With the reforms in this bipartisan law, companies will be able to compete to create high paying jobs right here at home.”

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF), which promotes the development of commercial human spaceflight, applauded the bill’s passage and the senators’ efforts. “The members of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation commend New Mexico Senators Udall and Heinrich for their leadership and perseverance in passing this critical piece of bipartisan legislation to ensure that America remains the leader in space,” CSF President Eric Stallmer said.

New Mexico is home to Spaceport America, which hosts commercial space activities for Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and UP Aerospace. The state has a rich heritage in space exploration dating back to early rocketry experiments conducted by Robert Goddard.

“We at Spaceport America applaud the passage of CSLCA, which will provide us much-needed policy and safety enhancements to continue to grow our commercial spaceflight tenant base,” said Spaceport America CEO Christine Anderson. “Regulatory reform that is good for our customers is good for Spaceport America and New Mexico.”

“The U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act addresses many of the major policy hurdles facing our sector since the last update of the CSLA in 2004. Congress has recognized the importance of pioneering policies that keep up with the rapid innovation of the commercial space industry. Virgin Galactic greatly appreciates New Mexico’s support, and thanks the members of Congress for their hard work on this legislation. We look forward to expanding Earth’s economic sphere outward in a safe, reusable and reliable way,” said George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic.