Trump Calls for Review of Space Launch Regulations

Published July 10, 2018

President Donald Trump has ordered the U.S. secretaries of Transportation and Commerce to evaluate and restructure federal restrictions on satellite launches and operation.

Space Policy Directive 2 also revives the National Space Council, an executive advisory council staffed by the president and the heads of other Cabinet departments, which was disbanded in 1993.

Calls Government Vehicles Costly

Andrew Gasser, president of Tea Party in Space, a nonprofit organization promoting private-sector-led expansion into space, says privately-designed space vehicles, including SpaceX’s Falcon rocket, can do routine missions in space at lower cost than those designed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

“We’ve got different classes of missions, but they’re so hard to do because every time you launch a mission, you’re talking somewhere between $130 and $400 million, just for the rocket,” Gasser said. “Now, because we have reusability with Falcon and Falcon Heavy, it’s going to increase the amount of scientific research that we can actually accomplish. We can put that money back into missions.”

Dean Cheng, a senior research fellow with The Heritage Foundation’s Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, says Trump is working to bring the compliance costs of space missions back to Earth.

“I’d suggest that the administration is trying to reduce the amount of regulatory paperwork and associated red tape that limits converting our aerospace potential to actual capability, as much as it has sought to reduce the overall level of regulations.”

Space for Private Efforts

Cheng says government should not have a monopoly on excursions into the universe.

“The future of space is not limited to government-run efforts,” Cheng said. “Beginning with the Obama administration, the United States has begun to rely more and more heavily on the commercial sector. For example, resupply of the International Space Station is now often undertaken by commercial spacecraft such as SpaceX.”

Cold War in Space?

The importance of American leadership in space exploration cannot be overstated, Gasser says.

“We’re the best system of government ever formed on this Earth,” Gasser said. “Free-market capitalism rewards everybody. Everybody has a shot to do it, and if you don’t use free market capitalism, there are going to end up being markets that aren’t truly open and free.

“If we don’t seize space travel by the horns, then despotism, communism, and socialism will take it, and they’ll corrupt it,”  Gasser said.

‘The Infinite Economy’

Gasser says the sky’s the limit for free-market principles.

“The private sector is getting involved with this because they see a market, and it’s not just any market, it’s space: the infinite economy.”

Cheng says free-market principles are already driving space exploration.

“The profit motive not only provides an important incentive for the provision of services, but also pushes innovation and greater efficiency,” Cheng said. “Elon Musk’s SpaceX efforts have significantly reduced the turnaround time for missions, in no small part because he has greater incentive to improve efficiency in the process.”