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Congress OKs Commercial Space Act

October 9, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Federal Aviation Administration would be able to issue licenses to private companies to launch reusable space vehicles like NASA’s space shuttle under legislation passed by Congress.

Private companies are now allowed to launch vehicles into space but can’t fly them back to Earth.

The Commercial Space Act also would require the government to study ways to foster the commercial space industry.

The Senate passed the measure Thursday and sent it to President Clinton for his signature. The House passed the bill earlier in the week.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., a lead sponsor of the legislation, said it would streamline regulations and provide policy for the federal government to promote a stable business environment for the commercial space industry.

``Historically, we’re used to governments dominating space activity,″ Sensenbrenner said when the bill passed the House on Tuesday. ``But in 1996, revenues from commercial space activities exceeded government expenditures for the first time.″

``Numerous benefits flow from the change of government dominance to commercial dominance _ the emergence of entirely new markets, commercial sector investment in new technologies, the creation of new jobs in the United States and cost efficiencies for the federal government,″ he said.

The growth of the commercial space industry has been limited by government regulations, however, Sensenbrenner said.

``This bill creates a better business environment for the American launch industry and will help America’s space transportation, data collection, navigation and services industries lead the way into the next century,″ Sensenbrenner said.

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