House passes Senate-amended launch indemnification bill

The House today agreed by unanimous consent to the Senate-amended version of HR 6586, a bill originally intended to provide a two-year extension to commercial launch indemnification. As noted yesterday, the Senate effectively replaced the House bill with a scaled back version of the Space Exploration Sustainability Act that Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) introduced last month. This bill provides only a one-year extension to commercial launch indemnification, but also includes an extension of NASA’s waiver to provisions of the Iran North Korea Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA) through the end of 2020, allowing the space agency to continue to purchase goods and services from Russia for operation of the International Space Station. The revised bill also includes a “Sense of Congress” provision supporting development of both the Space Launch System and Orion vehicles as well as commercial crew systems.

The bill may be the last passed by the House in the 112th Congress. Immediately after dispensing with the bill (a process that took about 30 seconds, according to the Office of the Clerk of the House), the House adjourned until 11 am Thursday, just before the 113th Congress will be sworn in.

Update 1:10 pm: The Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) swiftly issued a release about the passage of the legislation, which now awaits the president’s signature. The industry organization is understandably pleased with the bill’s passage, but hints at work to come later this year since the indemnification extension only runs through the end of 2013. “We will continue to work toward a long-term risk-sharing provision that would provide certainty to a growing industry,” CSF executive director Alex Saltman said in the statement.

8 comments to House passes Senate-amended launch indemnification bill

  • Fred Willett

    As an outsider with a limited understanding of the US political system I am interested to know the practical meaning of the term “Sense of Congress”.
    Does the this provision lock in SLS and Orion or does NASA have some wriggle room here. If so what is the wriggle room? Or not.
    Perhaps someone can enlighten me.
    Oh, and a happy new year to you all.

    • Jeff Foust


      A “sense of Congress” is merely a formal expression of opinion. It is not binding. However, development of SLS and Orion has already been authorized by the 2010 NASA authorization act, so in that respect NASA is “locked in” to developing them—unless Congress changes its mind.

  • E. P. Grondine

    Well, well, well.

    This piece of legislation makes it through, while Hurricane Sandy relief is not taken up.

    How did this happen, I wonder?


    Happened to catch a January 2 CSPAN broadcast of Rutan’s presentation in central Florida on commercial space and technology development from November. Was a relatively interesting presentation from his POV, his opinions et al., but the come away on commercial space was the usual prattle; spaceports servicing a limited market for sub-orbital jaunts leading in out years to Mach 25 runs to LEO tourist hotels and little more. Quaint. But space exploitation is not space exploration and without actually saying that, his whole presentation all but reinforced it. Interesting all the same.

  • Fred Willett

    Exploitation is not and can never be Exploration. But Explotation can – and should – follow Exploration. So Planetary Resources follows Apollo. Commercial crew and cargo follws shuttle.
    But I don’t think we should be so precious about exploration waht we want to restrict exploitation.

  • Coastal Ron

    Fred Willett said:

    But Explotation can – and should – follow Exploration.

    It’s not really a matter of “should”. Exploration without the desire of exploitation doesn’t make much sense, and in human history we have always used exploration as the guide for exploitation.

    Commercial crew and cargo follws shuttle.

    The Shuttle was not exploration, it was a failed attempt at transportation infrastructure. As to Commercial Crew and Cargo, they are a new attempt at transportation infrastructure, which hopefully will be more successful.

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