Satellite Export Reform Included in Defense Bill as CSF Chairman Vows to Continue Fight in 2013

Capitol Building
By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Satellite export reform is included in the final version of the $633 million defense bill agreed to in conference by House and Senate leaders on Tuesday. Speaking the same day in Mojave, Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) Chairman Stu Witt said  the federation would help lead the effort for additional measures next year.

According to a summary of the defense bill on the House Armed Services Committee’s website, the measure

reforms satellite export control by repealing Section 1513(a) of the Strom Thurmond NDAA for FY99, which essentially restores the authority of the President to move satellites and related items from the United States Munitions List to the Commerce Control List. The provisions would prohibit the export, re-export of such items to certain countries and provides for interagency reviews and reporting requirements in order to ensure accountability with respect to the export of satellites and related items. The provisions would maintain the existing security and monitoring provisions of the Strom Thurmond Act.

The bill will now be voted on by the full House and Senate before going to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign the legislation. Export control reform has been a key priority for the Administration.

U.S. satellite manufacturers have blamed excessively tight export rules for the industry’s shrinking share of the global market that it once dominated. To avoid the rules, foreign manufacturers have developed competitive satellites free of U.S. components.

During a meeting of the Mojave Air and Space Port’s Board of Directors on Tuesday, Witt said the satellite reform provision was one of several measures required to allow U.S. space industry to compete overseas.

Witt, who is the spaceport’s general manager, pointed to the example of Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites, which are developing the SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle in Mojave. The money for this project is coming from the England and Abu Dhabi, but strict export rules make it difficult to fly SpaceShipTwo in those nations.

CSF’s priority for 2013 will be to get Congress and the Obama Administration to make regulatory changes so this emerging industry is not restricted to the United States, which is only 30 percent of the global market, Witt said.

These restrictions affect every space company in Mojave, he added. The list of tenants at the spaceport includes XCOR Aerospace, Firestar Engineering, Stratolaunch Systems, Masten Space Systems, and Interorbital Systems.