In a move that speaks volumes about the near future of commercial space exploration, the House of Representatives just passed a bill called the Space Act, which allows any business that does asteroid mining to keep what it finds. The bill also leaves spaceflight regulation to the Federal Aviation Administration. Businesses have been demanding federal protections for outer space rocks that aren’t even surveyed yet. While property rights for non-surveyed asteroids may seem silly at this point in time, it’s an important topic. After all, we wouldn’t want there to be unresolvable conflict between companies who claim the same piece of rock.
So, how would commercial space ventures be regulated, and by who?
So, how would space discoveries for commercial purposes be regulated? It seems that the default governing body for this would be the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA gives licenses to companies for commercial space launches in cases when they aren’t performed for government agencies like NASA. While the Administration’s jurisdiction only covers launches and reentries, their power could grow. Robert Bigelow, hotel and budding aerospace magnate, wants the 1967 Outer Space Treaty to be applied to commercial space ventures. The Outer Space Treaty allows crews to operate inside a 125-mile non-interference zone in order to keep astronauts safe. If Bigelow’s efforts succeed, the Space Act would then allow the FAA a huge amount of power over the space industry, essentially making the FAA the default regulating body for anything that happens outside of Earth. Bigelow, who wants to experiment with inflatable space habitats, would then become an early leader in the rush for outer space land and minerals.
In the future, the FAA’s power could grow to a huge extent.
Perhaps more importantly, the FAA would have a massive amount of power under this plan. Many people don’t believe this to be a bad thing, as the Administration could be instrumental in keeping manned space travel safe, as well as keeping conflicts between commercial space companies to a minimum. In either case, some form of governmental regulation will be needed, and the Federal Aviation Administration might as well be the governing body to manage it.