A recommendation from the National Space Council, issued Wednesday, calls for a “space czar,” to oversee private spaceflight companies like SpaceX. Space commerce matters would be consolidated under the Department of Commerce, with an undersecretary in charge of “all commercial space regulatory functions,” according to the Washington Post.
Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the council also unveiled plans, in a speech at the Kennedy Space Center, to streamline the licensing requirements for reusable rockets, which have been at the heart of SpaceX’s innovation and reduced costs. The private space industry has been calling for such a move.
Regulations on remote sensing, and for interactions between spacecraft, would also be reduced under the plan, which would require presidential approval.
The recommendations come as the private industry begins to truly come into its own. In addition to recent breakthroughs by SpaceX, companies such as Planet, Orbital ATK, and Space Systems are breaking new ground in private space operations.
At the meeting. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said a “new, one-stop shop for space commerce” was necessary to help American space companies, which are competing “against 70 foreign governments, so they need all the support we can give them.”
“Asteroid mining, space tourism and space habitats are quickly becoming much more than science fiction. And we need a future-oriented space commerce agenda,” he added. Ross says the council hopes “to accelerate the progress of the commercialization of space. We’re moving quite aggressively to try to accomplish that.”
Pence’s speech compared private space companies to the companies who built the rail systems that laid the groundwork for westward American expansion, saying they would bring about “a new era of American space leadership.” But he said “outdated regulatory processes” were holding back that growth.
The recommendations could mark another legislative victory for the private space industry, which has enjoyed much success in its lobbying efforts in the past decade. It successfully lobbied a decade ago for “informed consent” regulations to apply to human spaceflight. Congress also moved recently to allow US companies control over resources mined in space.
Earlier this month, SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon Heavy rocket, with the largest capacity of any rocket operating today. Two of its booster rockets were also successfully recovered for reuse after the launch. Pence called the achievement “very impressive indeed.”