On June 28, 2010, President Obama issued a National Space Policy directive providing comprehensive guidance for all government activities in space, including the commercial, civil, and national security space sectors. The new policy leans farther forward in support of U.S. business interests than any previous space policy.
The principles section of the policy states, “The United States is committed to encouraging and facilitating the growth of a U.S. commercial space sector that supports U.S. needs, is globally competitive, and advances U.S. leadership in the generation of new markets and innovation-driven entrepreneurship.”
The first of the six stated policy goals is to “Energize competitive domestic industries to participate in global markets and advance the development of: satellite manufacturing; satellite-based services; space launch; terrestrial applications; and increased entrepreneurship.”
Commercial Space Guidelines
The policy includes a set of Commercial Space Guidelines directing the U.S. Government to:
- Purchase and use commercial space capabilities and services to the maximum practical extent when such capabilities and services are available in the marketplace and meet United States Government requirements;
- Modify commercial space capabilities and services to meet government requirements when existing commercial capabilities and services do not fully meet these requirements and the potential modification represents a more cost-effective and timely acquisition approach for the government;
- Actively explore the use of inventive, nontraditional arrangements for acquiring commercial space goods and services to meet United States Government requirements, including measures such as public-private partnerships, hosting government capabilities on commercial spacecraft, and purchasing scientific or operational data products from commercial satellite operators in support of government missions;
- Develop governmental space systems only when it is in the national interest and there is no suitable, cost-effective U.S. commercial or, as appropriate, foreign commercial service or system that is or will be available;
- Refrain from conducting United States Government space activities that preclude, discourage, or compete with U.S. commercial space activities, unless required by national security or public safety;
- Pursue potential opportunities for transferring routine, operational space functions to the commercial space sector where beneficial and cost-effective, except where the government has legal, security, or safety needs that would preclude commercialization;
- Cultivate increased technological innovation and entrepreneurship in the commercial space sector through the use of incentives such as prizes and competitions;
- Ensure that United States Government space technology and infrastructure are made available for commercial use on a reimbursable, noninterference, and equitable basis to the maximum practical extent;
- Minimize, as much as possible, the regulatory burden for commercial space activities and ensure that the regulatory
environment for licensing space activities is timely and responsive;
- Foster fair and open global trade and commerce through the promotion of suitable standards and regulations that have been
developed with input from U.S. industry;
- Encourage the purchase and use of U.S. commercial space services and capabilities in international cooperative arrangements; and
- Actively promote the export of U.S. commercially developed and available space goods and services, including those developed by small- and medium-sized enterprises, for use in foreign markets, consistent with U.S. technology transfer and nonproliferation objectives.
The guidelines define “commercial” space as referring to goods, services, or activities provided by private sector enterprises that bear a reasonable portion of the investment risk and responsibility for the activity, operate in accordance with typical market-based incentives for controlling cost and optimizing return on investment, and have the legal capacity to offer these goods or services to existing or potential nongovernmental customers.
Other Relevant Provisions
In addition to the Commercial Space Guidelines, the National Space Policy includes various other provisions affecting space commerce. These include:
- Direction for NASA to seek partnerships with the private sector to enable safe, reliable, and cost-effective commercial spaceflight capabilities and services for the transport of crew and cargo to and from the International Space Station;
- Direction in the international cooperation section to facilitate new market opportunities for U.S. commercial space capabilities and services, including commercially viable terrestrial applications that rely on government-provided space systems;
- Direction in the export policy section to enhance the competitiveness of the U.S. space industrial base while also addressing national security needs;
- Direction to develop, maintain, and retain skilled space professionals in government and commercial workforces;
- Recognition of hosted payload arrangements in guidance addressing assured access to space;
- Recognition of commercial sources and users in guidance addressing space situational awareness, orbital tracking information, and near-Earth object detection;
- Recognition of U.S. commercial space users in guidance addressing radiofrequency spectrum and interference protection;
- Reaffirmation that civil GPS access will remain continuous, worldwide, and free of direct user charges;
- Restatement of NOAA’s role in licensing commercial remote sensing systems;
Functional Space Policies
The 2010 National Space Policy replaces several space policies from previous administrations but retains the following ones.
- U.S. Spaced-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Policy (2004)
- U.S. Commercial Remote Sensing Space Policy (2003)
President Obama updated the National Space Transportation Policy in November 2013.