Bill to Redefine NASA Jurisdiction Over Orbital Satellites

A new bill is currently in Congress that allows the transfer of all responsibilities for civil based STM to be in the hands of Commerce rather than the defense department. The Bill called the Space Preservation and Conjunction Emergency will provide a framework to redefine the state of the space policy directive 

The Bill, if allowed, will give power to the commerce department to gather space presentational awareness information from U.S. governing bodies as well as other international sources and provide comprehensive data for the government and commercial institutions. It also allows the government to access such information without legal restrictions.  

The Bill also has a provision to transfer responsibilities to the office of space Commerce, together with the national oceanic and atmospheric administration. According to the Bill, both offices will work under a state confirmed Assistant Secretary directly answerable to the Secretary of Commerce. History claims that the shift was previously proposed but never gained ground. There is a possibility that this would come to pass in this Bill should it be enacted.

The Bill hopes to enable the Department of Commerce to keep tabs on debris and collision warnings from orbiting satellites by using its connections to the private sector. According to senator Wicker, the move is essential if Congress has plans to keep the Earth safe from falling debris obtained from orbital satellites.

In a previous hearing, Senator Wicker also brought up the matter regarding the running of civil STM. Senator Wicker also asked NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine if he was okay with the Department of Commerce taking over space situational awareness creation for civil and commercial parties.

Breidenstein confirmed his consent on the matter, adding that he received communication earlier. The NASA administrator, however, raised that related parties did not discuss the topic exhaustively. He also added that currently, the agency was confused, awaiting further instruction from Congress. He further addressed that his agency fully supports any shift necessary as long as NASA receives information through the right channel.

There are still growing concerns over this Bill. Recently the commerce department raise concerns over the possibility of a formal handing over, citing that there is no need for a new Bill to allow the department to take over such activities. This argument raises the question if the current law still allows the commerce department to adopt civil STM to work in their line of activities. There is no resolve this matter, but talks are underway to bring the Bill to a closure.

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