Regulation Reform May Help Commercial Spaceflight

Companies wanting to provide commercial spaceflight have had to jump through regulatory hoops.

Crewmembers prepare SpaceShipOne and White knight for the launch of SpaceShipOne on a trip to suborbital space at Mojave, Calif.,June 21, 2004. SpaceShipOne is a privately developed rocket plane that became the world's first commercial manned space vehicle and the first non-governmental flight to leave the Earth's atmosphere.
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Laurie Leshin, a former NASA scientist who worked on the Curiosity Rover, said at the same lunch that the "science community has been begging for ITAR reform."

"Most science is now international," she said. "The way we collaborate internationally has been severely hampered by the ITAR regulations. To see some move toward reform is a good thing."

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Bigelow was eventually allowed to launch its Genesis projects because the company had the money to pay for ITAR compliance officers. During the three years she spent negotiating the project in Russia, Gold says at least two ITAR compliance officers followed every step of the process to the tune of $140 an hour per monitor.

"It wasn't the Russians but us who had to travel with government monitors," he says. "If you brought an alien into the room and asked him to point to the free country and point to the post-communist dictatorship, they would have pointed to the Russians as the free country."

Gold says the regulations, and the associated costs to comply, have "prevented small businesses from participating in the international marketplace."

In the meantime, countries looking to expand their space offerings simply designed their own technology or bought satellite components from companies in Israel, Europe, and Russia, creating a brand of "ITAR-free" satellites that use zero American products.

"The idea of ITAR was to preserve America's technological edge, but much of this technology flowed from other countries anyway," Gold says. "The only country whose airspace industry was harmed by this was ours."

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