Freedom to Fly
In December 2007 one of those mammals, a company called Bigelow Aerospace, filed the first legal challenge to Americaâ€™s rules for exporting space technology. It disputed the governmentâ€™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 Bigelowâ€™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 â€œeverything we could wantâ€, though the ruling still precludes passengers from what he describes as the â€œbad-boy list of export controlâ€â€”nationals from Sudan, Iran, North Korea and China will not be allowed to fly or train on suborbital passenger flights, or visit Bigelowâ€™s space station.
Read the full story.