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H.R. 3765, COMMERCIAL SPACE LAUNCH ACT
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 1988
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE, SPACE, AND TECHNOLOGY, SUBCOMMITTEE ON SPACE SCIENCE AND APPLICATIONS, Washington, DC. The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 9:45 a.m., in Room 2318, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Bill Nelson (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. NELSON. Good morning. The committee will come to order. We had a good hearing yesterday. I must say that what started off in testimony among three branches or three different agencies of the administration in different directions, different commentary, ended up toward the end of the hearing on this legislation that we're going to consider, that we filed-ended up being a lot closer to the essence of the legislation.
A lot of the commentary that was given throughout the course of the hearing, upon further examination and closer examination, it became apparent that there was some misinformation, there was lack of communication, there was lack of communication from one agency to another, there was lack of communication about what actually the bill said and what it didn't say, and a lot of those things that they were saying were really in synch with the legislation that we filed. What we filed is an attempt to do something for this country to allow, when we want to put a satellite on orbit, that it can go on an American launcher.
Now, I must admit that when people have-I have heard responsible organizations say to me, and say to the world, and say to the press, that they want to ship United States satellites to be launched on the Soviet Proton, that's like waving a red flag in front of me. If there are international and foreign policy reasons to do that, that's one thing; but just as a matter of course of business, that is another thing. That's not looking out after our own interests, not in some jingoistic and parochial way. It's a looking out for the preservation protection of our technology and the lead, the precious lead that we have in this area of the space program. There are other parts that the Soviet Union is ahead of us in. Well, we're down, we're being kicked, and it's time for us to pull ourselves up, get back on that horse and ride him.
The subject of this hearing today is all a part of that. It's all a part of us trying to do what is in the best interest of this country and for our people.
Now, the strength of this country is that we are a great, diverse land, with a lot of different ideas, and in the attempt at expression of these different ideas that somewhere we will build consensus, and that's my job, to get it all out here on the table in a full, fair, and frank discussion, and then make a decision and move.
We start with a vehicle. This vehicle, by no means, is the end product. It's a filed bill, filed on December 15. We, in fact, did scrub it quite a bit. We circulated it. We changed it quite a bit. We had a good bit of input that was most productive, very enlightening, and we filed it, and about 22 Members of Congress have joined.
Now, it's interesting-this just really hasn't happened before. But there is a letter that is being circulated by a blue ribbon group of American enterprises that says, basically, we appreciate the thrust of H.R. 3765-and I'm going to quote from it. "Legislation will greatly assist industry's ability to establish a viable and competitive U.S. commercial space transportation capability."
This letter is signed by 14 launch and satellite manufacturers and users, and insurance brokers and underwriters. So it's everything from Alexander and Alexander, Contel, Ford Aerospace, G.E. Communications, General Dynamics, GTE Spacenet, Hughes, International Technology Underwriters, LTV Missiles and Electronics, Marsh & McLennan, Martin Marietta, McDonnell Douglas, the National Association of Insurance Brokers, Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association. So I think that sort of tells the story. Let me tell you there is no pride of authorship in this piece of legislation. It is a starting point.
Now, there is one thing that's a little different. As you know, the legislative wheels grind very slowly, and it would be easy for us to take a tact and say well, we'll just wait a year and we'll deal with the new administration, whoever they may be, and we'll get this thing moving. But that's a year that's wasted, and that's a year that's valuable. And so that's why we're going to mark up this legislation, and we're going to try to build consensus, and we're going to try to get your help in writing this legislation. Therefore, that's the import of the task that faces us today.
So we are going to welcome our witnesses. We have the agenda. It's a rather extensive agenda. I'm delighted with our first panel here, a satellite industry panel. I have a pretty good idea of what you guys are going to say, what all of you witnesses are going to say, and I think it's going to be enlightening. I think what we're going to do in the future when we have these kind of hearings is we're going to get the Government witnesses in the same room so they can hear your testimony, so we don't spread this out on two different days. They need to be hearing from you as we are looking forward to hearing from you, and they need to hear it directly, person-to-person, not necessarily through an intermediary. We will reorganize these kind of hearings in the future so that we can do that. I think that would be very instructive.
[The prepared opening statement of Mr. Walker follows:]
OPENING REMARKS OF
REPRESENTATIVE ROBERT S. WALKER
REPUBLICAN VICE CHAIRMAN
SUBCOMMITTEE ON SPACE SCIENCE AND APPLICATIONS
February 17, 1988
Good morning. Today we hold the second hearing on the needed amendments to the Commercial Space Launch Act to ensure that our infant commercial space launch industry has a reasonable chance to compete successfully in the world marketplace.
that this nation
It is important that we remember already has a successful commercial space industry, and it is represented here today by our satellite industry witnesses. Following the tragic loss administration decided to throw commercial payloads off the Space Shuttle. The reasons for that decision were that the
the Challenger the
Shuttle should be used for those payloads that require it's capabillities, and the determination that those
commercial payloads could fly on commercial ELVs.
Today we need to determine what the launch requirements of the satellite industry are, and if those requirements can be met by domestic launch providers. That may require a fine balance between the interests of both sectors.
Yesterday we were told by government witnesses that there already exists sufficient insurance capacity to cover maximum probable losses to third parties in launch accidents. We want to test that assertion against the industry
We were also told that the Administration position is that Congress should adopt comprehensive tort reform legislation to place caps on losses in accidents. Unfortunately, this Committee has no jurisdiction in the area of tort reform. That jurisdiction lies with the Committee on the Judiciary, and that Committee shows no indication that they are favorably disposed toward tort reform.
We are faced with a need to remove impediments that currently appear to face the launch industry. We need to move aggressively to ensure that American companies can compete on a level playing field. And we need to move to
ensure that the billions of private dollars that have already been invested in our successful satellite industry are not lost in a migration overseas.