Bigelow Ruling Helps Loosen ITAR Noose – A Little

Exterior View of Genesis module
Exterior view of Bigelow aerospace's Genesis module

Freedom to Fly
The Economist

In December 2007 one of those mammals, a company called Bigelow Aerospace, filed the first legal challenge to America’s rules for exporting space technology. It disputed the government’s claim that foreign passengers travelling on a spaceship or space station were involved in a transfer of technology. The outcome suggests that there may be a chink in the armour of the export-controls regime.

Improbable as it sounds, Bigelow Aerospace makes and launches inflatable space-station modules and hopes, one day, to build a commercial space station. Under the existing rules, any non-American passengers on its space stations would have to comply with onerous export controls. These take months to satisfy and could plausibly even culminate in government monitors being present while the foreigner was near American space technology. Even training on the ground in a mock-up module was deemed a transfer of technology and therefore required export controls.

Yet, taking a passenger flight does not mean you can build an aeroplane, observes Mike Gold, head of Bigelow’s office in Washington, DC. His line of argument, it seems, has been accepted. Mr Gold says that the company received the ruling in February and that it has spent the past two months digesting it. He says that Bigelow has got “everything we could want”, though the ruling still precludes passengers from what he describes as the “bad-boy list of export control”—nationals from Sudan, Iran, North Korea and China will not be allowed to fly or train on suborbital passenger flights, or visit Bigelow’s space station.

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