Washington | Two weeks after ISRO successfully launched 20 satellites – including 13 from the US – in a single mission, two influential American lawmakers have asked the Obama administration to spell out its policy that allows it to launch commercial satellites on Indian space vehicles.
In letters addressed to the administration, the two lawmakers — Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith and Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin – asked for information about the current US policy governing the export of commercial satellites for launch on Indian launch vehicles.
The four letters have been sent to Director of Office of Science and Technology Policy John Holdren, Secretary of State John Kerry, US Trade Representative Michael Froman and US Department of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.
A statement issued by the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology said this follows India’s recent membership into the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and conflicting reports as to the legal authority for promulgating the policy and administrative processes for implementing the policy.
On October 23, 2015, a senior official at the Office of the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) international trade and development office, was quoted as stating that the demand by American companies for commercial launch services had led the office to start a review of a policy that has been in place since 2005, and that the policy, implemented through export control licensing, ‘discourages US commercial satellite operators from purchasing launch services from Indian launch companies,’ the letters said.
Another article quoted an industry source who stated ‘[t]here is a real dysfunction on the government side. On the one hand, you have the policy, which no agency wants to take responsibility for but which remains the policy. On the other, government agencies are practically falling over themselves to grant waivers.
The Committee is interested in understanding this policy, the letters said. The letters requested a written copy of the administration’s policy governing access to Indian launch services, an explanation of when and how this policy was promulgated, and a copy of licenses authorising the launch of US origin space technology on Indian launch vehicles and records associated with them.
On June 22, India successfully launched 20 satellites including 17 foreign and its earth observation satellite in a single mission. The launch was demmed a crucial step to become a key player in the multi-billion dollar space launch market. Thirteen of the satellites were from the US, two from Canada and one each from Germany and Indonesia. The payload included devices ranging in weight from more than 700kg to as little as 1.5kg.
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