Last week SpaceShipOne won the $10 million X Prize for beeing the first private funded reusable spacecraft. Now L.A. Daily News reports that lawmakers are hoping to be able to get a bill approved this year to provide regulatory guidance for the new space-tourism sector.
But the bill's sponsor, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, decided to hold off until next year after objections were raised from space advocates over language calling for holding the industry to the "highest standards of safety when transporting humans."
Space advocates are pushing to allow space tourists to fly at their own risks.
"'Highest standard' is a phase that sounds good, but it doesn't provide any guidance to regulators," said Jeff Greason, president of XCOR, a Mojave company working on a spacecraft of its own. "The regulators know they can't get into trouble if they say no."
The major provisions of the Rohrabacher bill included extending an existing government indemnification for the commercial space transportation industry and creating an experimental permit process to make it easier to launch new types of spacecraft.
The bill also contained language eliminating confusion over who should regulate suborbital spacecraft, placing the authority firmly under the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation.
Even in a "fly at your own risk" environment, the federal government and the industry will need to come to terms on what information needs to be made available to a prospective passenger, said Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Marion Blakey.