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Hickenlooper, Schmitt Introduce Bipartisan Launch Communications Act

May 18, 2023

Legislation will modernize and expand the capacity for commercial spacecraft launches

WASHINGTON – Yesterday, U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper and Eric Schmitt introduced the bipartisan Launch Communications Act, which will modernize the current Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) process for licensing spectrum for commercial space launches to help ensure that the United States remains the global leader in space.

“Our leadership in space is powered by innovation, and we shouldn’t stifle it with red tape. Modernizing spectrum licensing will help our commercial space industry reach new heights,” said Hickenlooper.

“Space is the final frontier—the current FCC process for launching rockets is outdated and in need of modernization. The Launch Communications Act eliminates the mountain of paperwork currently required by commercial companies in order to obtain FCC spectrum licenses. This bill aims to improve interagency coordination while still maintaining the critical aspect of oversight,” said Schmitt. “If we want to remain ahead of China in space, we must be innovative and avoid hindering ourselves with outdated regulations and overly complex practices. I’m proud to join Senator Hickenlooper on this common-sense bill that will solidify the United States standing as the international leader in space.”

The FCC’s current process for licensing spectrum for commercial space launches was created decades ago when there were very few commercial space launches. The FCC’s licensing rules have not kept pace with the growing demand for commercial space launches that support scientific, economic, and national security objectives.

Specifically, the Launch Communications Act will resolve current challenges in the FCC’s licensing process by:

  • Requiring the FCC to allocate temporary spectrum access for commercial space launch and reentry activities on a secondary basis within the following frequency bands if approved:
    • 2025-2210 MHz, 2200-2290 MHz, 2360-2395 MHz.
  • Allowing launch providers to bundle spectrum applications for multiple similar launches in order to streamline the application process and decrease the administrative burden on providers and the FCC.
  • Instructing the FCC to create an automated process to review applications instead of the current manual review process which has resulted in a ground stop of critical space launches in past cases of government shutdowns when applications cannot be processed.
  • Requiring the FCC to issue new regulations to improve coordination with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to speed up the authorization process.

The Launch Communications Act is supported by Blue Origin and The United Launch Alliance, both of which have a presence in Colorado, in addition to SpaceX.


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