President Donald Trump is looking to the private space industry to fulfill his dreams of eventually mounting a mission to Mars, and wants to get the government out of the way of the enterprise.
Trump’s second space policy directive, signed Thursday, calls on department heads to reform the regulatory system for commercial and private rocket launches, with the goal of making it easier for private enterprises — think Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Blue Origin, the company partially supported by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos — to develop new technology. (RELATED: SpaceX Launches The World’s Most Powerful Rocket Into Deep Space)
The companies on the cutting-edge of space development are “working with regulatory systems that were not written with them in mind,” an administration official said in a meeting with reporters.
“And so what the president is saying here is, ‘Look, we recognize these regulations are out of date, and they need to be changed to give more flexibility to the industry,'” the official said.
Relaxing the regulatory framework will allow the private space companies to “prove out their business model so they can build up the hardware, and the experience and the technological know-how that will be crucial for being partners for us as we go to the Moon,” the official said.
The second space policy directive relays the findings of the National Space Council, resurrected in June 2017 for the first time since the 1980s. The president’s first space policy directive in December directed NASA to plan to return to the moon and lay the foundations for a mission to Mars.
The directive orders the Department of Transportation’s secretary to write a new regulatory framework for rocket launches and the re-entry of reusable parts, an aspect of space flight that hasn’t been specifically regulated because the technology is in its fledgling stages. The rewritten regulations will target “an industry that is undergoing incredible transformation with regulations that have failed to keep up,” according to the White House.
The Transportation secretary is also directed to consider a single license based on performance criteria for all commercial space flights, rather than “prescriptive requirements” from the federal government.
The Department of Commerce will also be involved, as the president directed the secretary to make a plan for a “one-stop shop” to regulate and administer commercial space flights.
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