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April 25, 2005 

Commercial Spaceflight Industry Facing Export Control Issues

The Space Review has published an article describing the export control-related issues that were raised at last week's hearing on the future markets for commercial space operations held by the House Science Committee's Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics. The hearing featured testimony by Burt Rutan, famed aircraft and spacecraft designer and founder of Scaled Composites LLC, and Will Whitehorn, president of Virgin Galactic, the personal spaceflight company founded by Richard Branson.

During the hearing, it was noted that suborbital vehicle developers and operators of personal spacecraft are facing significant regulatory burdens imposed by the U.S., including barriers imposed by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). In his testimony to the subcommittee, Will Whitehorn indicated that uncertainty about possible licensing requirements has prevented Virgin Galactic from viewing Scaled Composites' designs for the commercial space vehicle that it intends to use, known as SpaceShipTwo. He also indicated the delays have prevented Virgin Galactic from placing a formal order with Scaled Composites for the vehicles.

Elon Musk, CEO and Chief Technology Officer of Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), also expressed concerns about U.S. export controls and stated that "we really need to do something about ITAR. It is really hurting U.S. industry."

Former subcomittee chairman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) noted that revisions to U.S. export control regulations are in order and that streamlined regulations are needed for close U.S. allies, such as the U.K. Current subcommittee chairman Ken Calvert (R-CA) promised to work with Rohrabacher to achieve "some streamlining to make this process work" more smoothly.

The prepared testimony presented by Rutan, Whitehorn, Musk and others at the hearing can be found at the following link:



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