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Regulating Commercial Space Travel: How The White House Proposal Suggests Going About It

Several decades ago, space travel was only done by trained astronauts for the sole purpose of discovering more about the universe. But today, people now go to space to feel the lack of gravity; space travel now has a commercial side to it. So, how will the government manage it? What policies will be used to oversee commercial space travel since space isn’t for one country? Here are the answers.

It is wider than the jurisdiction of one department

Commercial space travel is not like traveling to Africa from Mexico; it goes beyond every country’s border. This single fact makes it quite a task to supervise or monitor commercial space travel. So, how wide is its scope?

Courtesy: The White House

On the 15th of November, the White House released a proposal concerning regulating commercial space travel. The proposal splits this regulation duty between two departments– transportation and commerce.

Expanding the involvement of the Department of Commerce (DOC)

The Department of Commerce has always had some involvement in commercial space travel. You know, it’s a commercial activity, so it only makes sense for the DOC to ‘govern’ it to some extent. Well, this proposal is expanding that oversight.

According to the proposal, the Department of Commerce would also oversee debris removal alongside the in-space servicing, assembly, and manufacturing(ISAM) field. The department would take care of other uncrewed spacecraft outside of the Department of Transportation’s jurisdiction.

Taking over from the Defense Department

Commercial space travel involves many different departments- that’s a no-brainer, really. The interesting thing about this new proposal is that it makes some changes to the scope of different departments.

Courtesy: The Space Review

The bill proposed that the Department of Commerce’s Office of Space Commerce would be in charge of developing a civil space traffic coordination system. Taking this role implies taking charge of one of the Defense Department’s duties.

Licensing commercial space travel

The Department of Transport has always been responsible for overseeing launch and reentry. However, according to the White House proposal, the department’s duties will go beyond that.

The department would supervise human spaceflight activities through the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation. Furthermore, the department would license all other human spaceflight activities.

The bottom line of the proposal

The whole point of managing commercial space travel is to ensure safe and efficient space travel. NASA can’t manage the commercial aspect of space travel, hence the need for other agencies and departments.


Another reason for this commercial space travel regulatory policy is to promote sustainability. As part of their licensing process, the proposal authorizes taking sustainability into account.

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