After many years of complaints by the space industry, the United States government is finally moving close to reform on space export-control regulations.

ITAR, or International Traffic in Arms Regulations, was originally intended to control international arms shipments. Unfortunately, the regulations have been applied to space vehicles, satellites, and related technologies that are dual-use or purely civilian in nature.

The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets are reporting that the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, just passed by the House and awaiting action in the Senate, would reverse some of the harshest changes to ITAR regulations that have been made in recent years. The bill would give the President more flexibility to determine how satellites and related technologies are regulated. That flexibility was taken away by Congressional action in the 1990’s. [Update: The bill has now been passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President.]

This action is welcome news for Citizens in Space. “Related technologies” could be interpreted to include some of the suborbital experiments which will be flown by Citizens in Space. Although we do not plan to export any technology, the current regulations recognize a wide variety of discussions and interactions with foreign nationals as “deemed exports” which are subject to ITAR regulation and require prior State Department approval. This has raised serious questions about the ability of foreign nationals to participate in Citizens in Space by building experiments for our flights.

The news of potential ITAR reform has been greeted enthusiastically by industry groups including the Commercial Space Federation, the Aerospace Industries Association, and the Space Foundation.

Stuart Witt, chairman of the Commercial Space Federation and manager of the Mojave Air and Space Port, said “It is exciting to see progress on export reform at such an important time for the industry. Removing unnecessary regulations will allow companies to spend their valuable resources on testing and developing their technologies, allowing the U.S. to retain its leadership as an innovator. We hope progress in this area will encourage the removal of manned suborbital spaceflight systems from the US Munitions List. These vehicles have innumerable civilian uses, and should be on the Commerce Control List, where many dual-use technologies with predominantly civilian uses are already regulated.”

Michael Lopez-Alegria, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and former NASA astronaut, said “This is a remarkable success, achieved by a coalition that included industry, researchers and the foreign policy community. By rationalizing export controls, Congress has simultaneously improved our national security and created an environment that will keep high-tech jobs here in America. It has been very encouraging to see industry, including CSF members, academia, and many others working closely together to find a solution to a regulatory problem that impacts jobs, STEM education, and America’s leadership in space.”

AIA President and CEO Marion C. Blakey said, “Our space industrial base faces an immediate 22 percent reduction in the national security space budget next year. Ending this self-imposed burden on U.S. competitiveness in the global commercial satellite marketplace is critical to our national security and to ensuring the U.S. space industrial base stays second to none.”

Elliot Pulham, chief executive officer of the Space Foundation, said “For years, we have watched the U.S. lose ground against global competitors because of the largely unintentional consequences of onerous regulations on space technology for export. Our nation may soon be able to once again vigorously compete in an industry we helped invent.”

Written by Astro1 on December 21st, 2012 , Space Policy and Management

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