51 U.S.C.
United States Code, 2019 Edition
Subtitle V - Programs Targeting Commercial Opportunities
Sec. 50901 - Findings and purposes
From the U.S. Government Publishing Office, www.gpo.gov

§50901. Findings and purposes

(a) Findings.—Congress finds that—

(1) the peaceful uses of outer space continue to be of great value and to offer benefits to all mankind;

(2) private applications of space technology have achieved a significant level of commercial and economic activity and offer the potential for growth in the future, particularly in the United States;

(3) new and innovative equipment and services are being sought, produced, and offered by entrepreneurs in telecommunications, information services, microgravity research, human space flight, and remote sensing technologies;

(4) the private sector in the United States has the capability of developing and providing private launching, reentry, and associated services that would complement the launching, reentry, and associated capabilities of the United States Government;

(5) the development of commercial launch vehicles, reentry vehicles, and associated services would enable the United States to retain its competitive position internationally, contributing to the national interest and economic well-being of the United States;

(6) providing launch services and reentry services by the private sector is consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and would be facilitated by stable, minimal, and appropriate regulatory guidelines that are fairly and expeditiously applied;

(7) the United States should encourage private sector launches, reentries, and associated services and, only to the extent necessary, regulate those launches, reentries, and services to ensure compliance with international obligations of the United States and to protect the public health and safety, safety of property, and national security and foreign policy interests of the United States;

(8) space transportation, including the establishment and operation of launch sites, reentry sites, and complementary facilities, the providing of launch services and reentry services, the establishment of support facilities, and the providing of support services, is an important element of the transportation system of the United States, and in connection with the commerce of the United States there is a need to develop a strong space transportation infrastructure with significant private sector involvement;

(9) the participation of State governments in encouraging and facilitating private sector involvement in space-related activity, particularly through the establishment of a space transportation-related infrastructure, including launch sites, reentry sites, complementary facilities, and launch site and reentry site support facilities, is in the national interest and is of significant public benefit;

(10) the goal of safely opening space to the American people and their private commercial, scientific, and cultural enterprises should guide Federal space investments, policies, and regulations;

(11) private industry has begun to develop commercial launch vehicles capable of carrying human beings into space and greater private investment in these efforts will stimulate the Nation's commercial space transportation industry as a whole;

(12) space transportation is inherently risky, and the future of the commercial human space flight industry will depend on its ability to continually improve its safety performance;

(13) a critical area of responsibility for the Department of Transportation is to regulate the operations and safety of the emerging commercial human space flight industry;

(14) the public interest is served by creating a clear legal, regulatory, and safety regime for commercial human space flight; and

(15) the regulatory standards governing human space flight must evolve as the industry matures so that regulations neither stifle technology development nor expose crew, government astronauts, or space flight participants to avoidable risks as the public comes to expect greater safety for crew, government astronauts, and space flight participants from the industry.

(b) Purposes.—The purposes of this chapter are—

(1) to promote economic growth and entrepreneurial activity through use of the space environment for peaceful purposes;

(2) to encourage the United States private sector to provide launch vehicles, reentry vehicles, and associated services by—

(A) simplifying and expediting the issuance and transfer of commercial licenses;

(B) facilitating and encouraging the use of Government-developed space technology; and

(C) promoting the continuous improvement of the safety of launch vehicles designed to carry humans, including through the issuance of regulations, to the extent permitted by this chapter;

(3) to provide that the Secretary of Transportation is to oversee and coordinate the conduct of commercial launch and reentry operations, issue permits and commercial licenses and transfer commercial licenses authorizing those operations, and protect the public health and safety, safety of property, and national security and foreign policy interests of the United States; and

(4) to facilitate the strengthening and expansion of the United States space transportation infrastructure, including the enhancement of United States launch sites and launch-site support facilities, and development of reentry sites, with Government, State, and private sector involvement, to support the full range of United States space-related activities.

(Pub. L. 103–272, §1(e), July 5, 1994, 108 Stat. 1330, §70101 of title 49; Pub. L. 105–303, title I, §102(a)(2), Oct. 28, 1998, 112 Stat. 2846; Pub. L. 108–492, §2(a), Dec. 23, 2004, 118 Stat. 3974; renumbered §70101 then §50901 of title 51, Pub. L. 111–314, §4(d)(2), (3)(A), Dec. 18, 2010, 124 Stat. 3440; Pub. L. 114–90, title I, §112(a), Nov. 25, 2015, 129 Stat. 711.)

Historical and Revision Notes


Source (U.S. Code)Source (Statutes at Large)
70101(a) 49 App.:2601. Oct. 30, 1984, Pub. L. 98–575, §§2, 3, 98 Stat. 3055; Nov. 16, 1990, Pub. L. 101–611, §117(c), (d), 104 Stat. 3202.
70101(b) 49 App.:2602.

In subsection (a), before clause (1), the words "and declares" are omitted as surplus.

In subsection (b), before clause (1), the word "therefore" is omitted as surplus.


2015—Subsec. (a)(15). Pub. L. 114–90, which directed amendment of section "50901(15)" by inserting ", government astronauts," after "crew" wherever appearing, was executed by making the insertion in subsec. (a)(15) in two places, to reflect the probable intent of Congress.

2010—Pub. L. 111–314 successively renumbered section 70101 of title 49 and section 70101 of this title as this section.

2004—Subsec. (a)(3). Pub. L. 108–492, §2(a)(1), inserted "human space flight," after "microgravity research,".

Subsec. (a)(4). Pub. L. 108–492, §2(a)(2), struck out "satellite" after "providing private" and substituted "capabilities of" for "services now available from".

Subsec. (a)(10) to (15). Pub. L. 108–492, §2(a)(3)–(5), added pars. (10) to (15).

Subsec. (b)(2)(C). Pub. L. 108–492, §2(a)(6), added subpar. (C).

Subsec. (b)(3). Pub. L. 108–492, §2(a)(7), substituted "issue permits and commercial licenses and transfer" for "issue and transfer".

1998—Subsec. (a)(3). Pub. L. 105–303, §102(a)(2)(A), inserted "microgravity research," after "information services,".

Subsec. (a)(4). Pub. L. 105–303, §102(a)(2)(B), inserted ", reentry," after "launching" in two places.

Subsec. (a)(5). Pub. L. 105–303, §102(a)(2)(C), inserted ", reentry vehicles," after "launch vehicles".

Subsec. (a)(6). Pub. L. 105–303, §102(a)(2)(D), inserted "and reentry services" after "launch services".

Subsec. (a)(7). Pub. L. 105–303, §102(a)(2)(E), inserted ", reentries," after "launches" in two places.

Subsec. (a)(8). Pub. L. 105–303, §102(a)(2)(F), (G), inserted ", reentry sites," after "launch sites" and "and reentry services" after "launch services".

Subsec. (a)(9). Pub. L. 105–303, §102(a)(2)(H), (I), inserted "reentry sites," after "launch sites," and "and reentry site" after "launch site".

Subsec. (b)(2). Pub. L. 105–303, §102(a)(2)(J), inserted ", reentry vehicles," after "launch vehicles" in introductory provisions.

Subsec. (b)(2)(A). Pub. L. 105–303, §102(a)(2)(K), struck out "launch" before "licenses".

Subsec. (b)(3). Pub. L. 105–303, §102(a)(2)(L), (M), inserted "and reentry" after "conduct of commercial launch" and struck out "launch" before "licenses".

Subsec. (b)(4). Pub. L. 105–303, §102(a)(2)(N), inserted "and development of reentry sites," after "launch-site support facilities,".


Pub. L. 106–405, §2, Nov. 1, 2000, 114 Stat. 1751, provided that: "The Congress finds that—

"(1) a robust United States space transportation industry is vital to the Nation's economic well-being and national security;

"(2) enactment of a 5-year extension of the excess third party claims payment provision of [former] chapter 701 of title 49, United States Code [now 51 U.S.C. 50901 et seq.] (Commercial Space Launch Activities), will have a beneficial impact on the international competitiveness of the United States space transportation industry;

"(3) space transportation may evolve into airplane-style operations;

"(4) during the next 3 years the Federal Government and the private sector should analyze the liability risk-sharing regime to determine its appropriateness and effectiveness, and, if needed, develop and propose a new regime to Congress at least 2 years prior to the expiration of the extension contained in this Act [see Tables for classification];

"(5) the areas of responsibility of the Office of the Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation have significantly increased as a result of—

"(A) the rapidly expanding commercial space transportation industry and associated government licensing requirements;

"(B) regulatory activity as a result of the emerging commercial reusable launch vehicle industry; and

"(C) the increased regulatory activity associated with commercial operation of launch and reentry sites; and

"(6) the Office of the Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation should continue to limit its promotional activities to those which support its regulatory mission."