A US commercial space bill that would enable Richard Branson's suborbital tourism business to be realised is not expected to become law by the end of President George Bush's first term, throwing the nascent industry's future into doubt.

Tuesday 23 November is the last legislative day of Bush's first term, and any bill not passed will have to fit into his second term agenda, which could mean an indefinite delay to its approval.

Last week Congressman Sherwood Boehlert, chairman of the House science committee, which oversees NASA, declared the current version of the bill to be dead and added that negotiations on it would "have to start all over next year".

His committee, its equivalent Senate committee and others involved had reached agreement on a final text of the bill on 12 November, but then last week the House committee on transport, which oversees aviation, intervened. It said the latest draft required further hearings. Because of this situation last week saw questions being asked of the Federal Aviation Administration by legislators seeking to reach a compromise, however unlikely, before the 23 November deadline.

Source: Flight International