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Space Launch Liability Provisions Extension

Floor Speech

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Mr. HALL. Mr. Speaker, I, of course, rise in support of H.R. 6586, to extend the application of certain space launch liability regimes.

Everybody is hoping that the House won't be divided, that we're all going to work together. This is a good chance to show them that we are all together on a good bill.

Commercial launch in the United States has a very enviable record. Our rockets are highly reliable, and SpaceX, which has flown two Falcon 9 rockets to the international space station and returned two payloads, is the first commercial company to successfully reenter payloads from space. And in the next 2 months, Orbital Sciences Corporation is scheduled to launch its new rocket that is designed to carry cargo to the space station.

No matter these successes, our industry faces serious pricing challenges from foreign operators. They are able to offer substantially cheaper launch costs because of industrial policy and less expensive labor costs. They also offer generous indemnification coverage. In a report released earlier this summer, the Government Accountability Office stated:

The United States provides less total third-party liability coverage than China, France, or Russia--the primary countries that have conducted commercial space launches in the last 5 years.

As Chairman Palazzo mentioned a few minutes ago, commercial launch activity in the United States is expected to pick up in the years to come: first through NASA's reliance on commercial launch companies to ferry cargo and astronauts to and from the international space station, and second, through the introduction of commercial human spaceflight services.

The bill before us would extend the indemnification regime for 2 years to December 31, 2014. It's important that we pass this bill to ensure that we do not jeopardize the ability of NASA to get cargo flights to the space station or inhibit our commercial launch operators' ability to compete for future payloads.

The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will continue to monitor the activities of the Office of Commercial Space Transportation and the evolving space launch market to ensure that the current risk-sharing and liability regime, including indemnification, is properly structured.

I thank Chairman Palazzo of Mississippi and Ranking Member Costello of Illinois for sponsoring and supporting this bill, and I urge all Members to support it as well.

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