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New law updates guidelines for space industry

Molly Wood and Kimberly Adams Nov 27, 2015
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Before heading off for Europe this week for climate change talks, President Obama signed a several bills into law.

Among them, the Department of Defense Appropriations bill, and a law that updates the way the US government thinks about the commercial space industry. The Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 (SPACE Act) gives American companies the go-ahead for mining on asteroids and the moon, with guarantees that they can keep what they mine. It’s unclear whether other countries in space will agree.

The new law also extends US support for the International Space Station until 2024, and sets up a process to streamline the permissions process for commercial launches. Aaron  Osterle, policy director for the Space Frontier Foundation, said the government is trying to keep up with the fast-moving developments in the commercial space industry.

“When the industry started operating and developing new launch vehicles, and, specifically, reusable launch vehicles,” said Osterle, referring to the recent successful landing of a Blue Origin rocket. “They’re going to be a very different vehicle than we’ve ever flown before. But if we want to have a broader industry, if we want to have big visions of space settlement, you’re going to have to have flights that are on-par with modern-day aviation.”

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