US government, industry support launch insurance indemnification

Washington DC
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Witnesses representing US government agencies and the commercial spaceflight industry supported extending insurance indemnification for commercial spaceflight launches during a 20 June US Senate Science and Space subcommittee hearing. The indemnification is scheduled to expire on 31 December.

The FAA, NASA and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) voiced their support for the extension, along with industry representatives from space habitat manufacturer Bigelow Aerospace and the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.

Through the indemnification, commercial launch providers are only required to purchase insurance for up to $500 million.

Under current legislation, the US government commits to pay for damage beyond a certain amount, determined on a per-flight basis, up to $1.5 billion. The liability shield allows launch providers to reduce costs and commercial spaceflight companies see it as critical to fostering a US commercial launch market.

"We didn't speak to anyone in industry who didn't think this should be extended," says GAO.

In other business, witnesses unanimously called for extending NASA's exception from a non-proliferation act meant to block missile transfers to Syria, North Korea and Iran. Failure to extend relief from the act would effectively prevent NASA from exchanging data and services with Russian space agency Roscosmos, upon which NASA depends to launch astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).

"The way we understand the restriction is it also doesn't allow us to barter. We barter for engineering information and other things," says NASA.

 soyuz capsule, space adventures

 ©Roscosmos

The witnesses made a strong call to fully fund NASA's commercial crew integrated capability, which would provide the US with a domestic means of transport to the ISS. (please check that this edit is correct)

"We support the highest possible funding for NASA's commercial crew programme in FY 2013 and beyond to ensure that this gap in American spaceflight capability ends soon and forever," says Michael Lopez-Alegria.