The House of Representatives will vote today on a bill that provides a two-year extension to the existing commercial launch indemnification system. HR 6586 was introduced last Friday by Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS), chairman of the space subcommittee of the House Science Committee, with six co-sponsors, including full committee chairman Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) and the three men seeking to succeed him: Reps. Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA), James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), and Lamar Smith (R-TX). The bill is one of several the House will consider later today under suspension of the rules, an expedited process for non-controversial legislation.
The bill is a “clean” extension of the indemnification regime: the text of the legislation does nothing more than extend the period indemnification is in place from the end of 2012 to the end of 2014. Some past bills have included additional provisions, typically studies about the utility of the indemnification regime, which protects commercial launch operators from third-party damage claims in excess of “maximum probable loss” companies must insure against. The Senate has yet to act on an indemnification extension; last month, a House staffer warned that the Senate may seek to incorporate additional, unspecified provisions to an extension.