Proposed commercial space amendments to NASA authorization

There are at least two proposed amendments to the NASA authorization bill that the Senate Commerce Committee will take up that would address some commercial space issues. One, submitted by Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), would restore funding for the commercial crew program to the levels in the administration's proposal. The funds would come from the crew capsule and the "Space Launch System" in the bill; the legislation would also make some other tweaks to the language in the bill, primarily about the commercial crew program as well as explicitly putting the crew capsule out for competition (instead of merely "pursue" development of it). Commercial space advocates like the Space Frontier Foundation are sounding the alarm about the bill and endorsing the Warner amendment. "Does the US Senate want to preserve a few thousand politically important, government funded jobs for a few more years, or would it rather stimulate the creation of millions of new private sector jobs that will last into the 22nd century?" the organization asks. A separate amendment, by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), is more narrowly focused on suborbital programs. It would explicitly authorize full funding-$15 million a year-for the Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research (CRuSR) program. The bill actually does have supportive language for suborbital research, including the use of "suborbital reusable vehicles, and commercial launch vehicles" among other platforms for conducting such research, but only authorizes "such sums as may be necessary" to carry out the overall suborbital research program.

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