March 25, 2013
Credit: Xinhua/Landov File Photo
It will take another year for export-control reforms aimed at easing the path for the U.S. satellite industry to take effect, time enough for manufacturers and others affected by more than a decade of onerous International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) to push for additional changes.
Among issues the satellite industry is likely to address is the status of military hosted payloads, which will continue to be treated as munitions under the proposed rule to be published by the end of April. Industry will be able to enter comments on the proposed rule that will shift oversight of most satellite and satellite-component exports from the U.S. Munitions List controlled by the State Department back to the Commerce Department, where it once resided.
“If the satellite is DOD funded, it would be retained on the U.S. Munitions List,” says Patricia Cooper, president of the Satellite Industry Association (SIA). “That's an area where I expect SIA to file a request for reconsideration.”
U.S. satellite manufacturers have been pushing hosted payloads riding piggyback on commercial communications platforms as a less expensive way for the Pentagon to field its communications relays and mapping sensors than building dedicated satellites. Removing them from the munitions list could simplify adoption of the approach, a process that many see as lagging (AW&ST March 18, p. 51).
Satellites were placed on the munitions list in 1999 in a congressional reaction against U.S. companies helping the China Great Wall Industry Corp. review the causes of two Long March launch vehicle failures that destroyed their spacecraft. Since then, the U.S. industry has pushed for a return to the Commerce Control List, which was less burdensome.
U.S. satellite manufacturers say their exports have suffered as a result of the ITAR oversight, which requires additional licenses for resale of spacecraft components to third parties and has proved slower than the Commerce oversight at times. In an attempt to gain an advantage over U.S. companies, Europe's Thales Alenia Space developed an “ITAR-free” spacecraft that could be launched on Chinese rockets, such as the March 31, 2012, flight of a Long March 3B carrying the company's Apstar VII satcom for APT Satellite Holdings of Hong Kong (photo).
A panel at the Satellite 2013 conference here outlined the difficult process of repealing the 1999 satellite-export legislation, followed by the lengthy task of preparing the proposed rule that will shift commercial satellites back to Commerce's purview.