U.S. Code Title 51, Chapter 507 establishes the Office of Space Commerce as a legal entity and defines its functions and responsibilities as follows. Highlighted text reflects amendments enacted in November 2015 (view at congress.gov).
CHAPTER 507—OFFICE OF SPACE COMMERCE
§ 50701. Definition of Office
In this chapter, the term “Office” means the Office of Space Commerce established in section 50702 of this title.
§ 50702. Establishment
(a) In General.—There is established within the Department of Commerce an Office of Space Commerce.
(b) Director—The Office shall be headed by a Director, who shall be a senior executive and shall be compensated at a level in the Senior Executive Service under section 5382 of title 5 as determined by the Secretary of Commerce.
(c) Functions of Office.—The Office shall be the principal unit for the coordination of space-related issues, programs, and initiatives within the Department of Commerce, including—
- (1) to foster the conditions for the economic growth and technological advancement of the United States space commerce industry;
- (2) to coordinate space commerce policy issues and actions within the Department of Commerce;
- (3) to represent the Department of Commerce in the development of United States policies and in negotiations with foreign countries to promote United States space commerce;
- (4) to promote the advancement of United States geospatial technologies related to space commerce, in cooperation with relevant interagency working groups; and
- (5) to provide support to Federal Government organizations working on Space-Based Positioning Navigation, and Timing policy, including the National Coordination Office for Space-Based Position, Navigation, and Timing.
(d) Duties of Director.—The primary responsibilities of the Director in carrying out the functions of the Office shall include—
- (1) promoting commercial provider investment in space activities by collecting, analyzing, and disseminating information on space markets, and conducting workshops and seminars to increase awareness of commercial space opportunities;
- (2) assisting United States commercial providers in the efforts of those providers to conduct business with the United States Government;
- (3) acting as an industry advocate within the executive branch of the Federal Government to ensure that the Federal Government meets the space-related requirements of the Federal Government, to the fullest extent feasible, using commercially available space goods and services;
- (4) ensuring that the United States Government does not compete with United States commercial providers in the provision of space hardware and services otherwise available from United States commercial providers;
- (5) promoting the export of space-related goods and services;
- (6) representing the Department of Commerce in the development of United States policies and in negotiations with foreign countries to ensure free and fair trade internationally in the area of space commerce; and
- (7) seeking the removal of legal, policy, and institutional impediments to space commerce.
§ 50703. Annual report
The Secretary of Commerce shall submit an annual report on the activities of the Office, including planned programs and expenditures, to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate and the Committee on Science and Technology of the House of Representatives.
Congress passed this legislation in 1998, ten years after the Secretary of Commerce originally created the Office. Prior to 1998, Congress recognized the Office’s existence in 1990 (P.L. 101-611) and again in 1992 (P.L. 102-588). Title 51 also includes legislation establishing a Commercial Space Achievement Award to be awarded by the Secretary of Commerce (learn more).
Department Organizational Order
Department Organizational Order 25-5 establishes the Office of Space Commercialization as a unit of NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service (NESDIS) and restates its functions as follows.
a. coordinate space commerce policy issues and actions within NOAA and the Department;
b. represent the Department in the development of U.S. policies and in negotiations with foreign countries to promote U.S. space commerce;
c. assist commercial space companies in their efforts to do business with the U.S. Government, and act as industry’s advocate within the Executive Branch to ensure the Government meets its space-related requirements, to the maximum practical extent, with commercially available space goods and services, consistent with national security;
d. work to ensure the U.S. Government does not engage in space-related activities that preclude, deter, or compete with U.S. commercial space activities unless required by national security or public safety;
e. promote and coordinate increased U.S. private sector participation in the design and development of U.S. Government space systems and infrastructures, and encourage U.S. Government agencies to make space activities, technology, and infrastructure available for private use to the maximum practical extent;
f. seek the removal of legal, policy, and institutional impediments to space commerce;
g. collect, analyze, and disseminate information on space markets, and conduct workshops and seminars to increase awareness of opportunities to promote private sector investment in U.S. space commerce; and
h. implement the Department’s responsibilities to support the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Executive Committee and its Coordination Office.
Prior to 2005, the Office operated under different DOOs. From 1988-1996, under DOO 15-19, it was the “Office of Space Commerce” within the Office of the Secretary of Commerce. From 1996-2005, under DOO 10-17, it was the “Office of Air and Space Commercialization” and then the “Office of Space Commercialization” within the Technology Administration.