November 19, 2012
Credit: Credit: Architect of the Capitol
The House this week approved a bill to extend for two years an indemnification program allowing the government to share the cost with industry against injuries or property damage suffered by the public in a commercial space launch.
Industry had sought a longer extension, but just ensuring the program remains alive is also critical, says Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) who leads the Science, Space and Technology’s space subcommittee. “If this program were allowed to lapse, it would threaten our domestic market for launches, as the cost of insurance would significantly increase.”
The move would indemnify commercial launch and re-entry operators against catastrophic losses suffered by uninvolved, third-party public claims up to $2.7 billion total, once operators ’ own insurance was exhausted. While the bill extends the law yet again, it was not a sure bet in the chamber of Congress where tea party and deficit-spending concerns have stopped other federal coverage deemed more popular like flood and farm insurance . But in the end, loss of U.S. business persuaded the Republican-controlled House .
Now the bill moves to the Senate, where aides are considering whether it can be packaged with an extension of the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA), which includes an exemption that allows NASA to do business with Russia for space station missions, including seats in the Soyuz capsules that U.S. , European, Japanese and Canadian astronauts now ride to the ISS, with the shuttle retired.