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51 U.S. Code § 50903 - General authority

(a) General.—
The Secretary of Transportation shall carry out this chapter.
(b) Facilitating Commercial Launches and Reentries.—In carrying out this chapter, the Secretary shall—
encourage, facilitate, and promote commercial space launches and reentries by the private sector, including those involving space flight participants; and
take actions to facilitate private sector involvement in commercial space transportation activity, and to promote public-private partnerships involving the United States Government, State governments, and the private sector to build, expand, modernize, or operate a space launch and reentry infrastructure.
(c) Safety.—
In carrying out the responsibilities under subsection (b), the Secretary shall encourage, facilitate, and promote the continuous improvement of the safety of launch vehicles designed to carry humans, and the Secretary may, consistent with this chapter, promulgate regulations to carry out this subsection.
(d) Executive Agency Assistance.—
When necessary, the head of an executive agency shall assist the Secretary in carrying out this chapter.

Historical and Revision Notes



Source (U.S. Code)

Source (Statutes at Large)


49 App.:2604(a) (1st–10th words).

Oct. 30, 1984, Pub. L. 98–575, § 5(a) (1st–10th words, (b)), 98 Stat. 3057.


49 App.:2604(a) (11th–15th words, cls. (1), (3)).

Oct. 30, 1984, Pub. L. 98–575, § 5(a) (11th–15th words, cls. (1), (3)), 98 Stat. 3057; Nov. 16, 1990, Pub. L. 101–611, § 117(e)(1), (3), 104 Stat. 3203.


49 App.:2604(b).

In subsection (a), the words “be responsible for” are omitted as surplus.

In subsection (c), the words “To the extent permitted by law” are omitted as surplus. The words “the head of an executive agency” are substituted for “Federal agencies” for consistency in the revised title and with other titles of the United States Code.

Editorial Notes

2010—Pub. L. 111–314 successively renumbered section 70103 of title 49 and section 70103 of this title as this section.

2004—Subsec. (b)(1). Pub. L. 108–492, § 2(c)(1), inserted “, including those involving space flight participants” after “private sector”.

Subsecs. (c), (d). Pub. L. 108–492, § 2(c)(2), added subsec. (c) and redesignated former subsec. (c) as (d).

1998—Subsec. (b). Pub. L. 105–303, § 102(a)(4)(A), inserted “and Reentries” after “Launches” in heading.

Subsec. (b)(1). Pub. L. 105–303, § 102(a)(4)(B), inserted “and reentries” after “commercial space launches”.

Subsec. (b)(2). Pub. L. 105–303, § 102(a)(4)(C), inserted “and reentry” after “space launch”.

Statutory Notes and Related Subsidiaries
Launch Services Strategy

Pub. L. 110–422, title VI, § 621, Oct. 15, 2008, 122 Stat. 4801, provided that:

“(a) In General.—
In preparation for the award of contracts to follow up on the current NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration] Launch Services (NLS) contracts, the Administrator shall develop a strategy for providing domestic commercial launch services in support of NASA’s small and medium-sized Science, Space Operations, and Exploration missions, consistent with current law and policy.
“(b) Report.—The Administrator [of NASA] shall transmit a report to the Committee on Science and Technology [now Committee on Science, Space, and Technology] of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate describing the strategy developed under subsection (a) not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act [Oct. 15, 2008]. The report shall provide, at a minimum—
the results of the Request for Information on small to medium-sized launch services released on April 22, 2008;
an analysis of possible alternatives to maintain small and medium-sized lift capabilities after June 30, 2010, including the use of the Department of Defense’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV);
the recommended alternatives, and associated 5-year budget plans starting in October 2010 that would enable their implementation; and
a contingency plan in the event the recommended alternatives described in paragraph (3) are not available when needed.”
Executive Documents
Ex. Ord. No. 12465. Coordination and Encouragement of Commercial Expendable Launch Vehicle Activities

Ex. Ord. No. 12465, Feb. 24, 1984, 49 F.R. 7211, provided:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, and in order to encourage, facilitate and coordinate the development of commercial expendable launch vehicle (ELV) operations by private United States enterprises, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. The Department of Transportation is designated as the lead agency within the Federal government for encouraging and facilitating commercial ELV activities by the United States private sector.

Sec. 2. Responsibilities of Lead Agency. The Secretary of Transportation shall, to the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations, perform the following functions:

(a) act as a focal point within the Federal government for private sector space launch contacts related to commercial ELV operations;

(b) promote and encourage commercial ELV operations in the same manner that other private United States commercial enterprises are promoted by United States agencies;

(c) provide leadership in the establishment, within affected departments and agencies, of procedures that expedite the processing of private sector requests to obtain licenses necessary for commercial ELV launches and the establishment and operation of commercial launch ranges;

(d) consult with other affected agencies to promote consistent application of ELV licensing requirements for the private sector and assure fair and equitable treatment for all private sector applicants;

(e) serve as a single point of contact for collection and dissemination of documentation related to commercial ELV licensing applications;

(f) make recommendations to affected agencies and, as appropriate, to the President, concerning administrative measures to streamline Federal government procedures for licensing of commercial ELV activities;

(g) identify Federal statutes, treaties, regulations and policies which may have an adverse impact on ELV commercialization efforts and recommend appropriate changes to affected agencies and, as appropriate, to the President; and

(h) conduct appropriate planning regarding long-term effects of Federal activities related to ELV commercialization.

Sec. 3. An interagency group, chaired by the Secretary of Transportation and composed of representatives from the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the Department of Commerce, the Federal Communications Commission, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, is hereby established. This group shall meet at the call of the Chair and shall advise and assist the Department of Transportation in performing its responsibilities under this Order.

Sec. 4. Responsibilities of Other Agencies. All executive departments and agencies shall assist the Secretary of Transportation in carrying out this Order. To the extent permitted by law and in consultation with the Secretary of Transportation, they shall:

(a) provide the Secretary of Transportation with information concerning agency regulatory actions which may affect development of commercial ELV operations;

(b) review and revise their regulations and procedures to eliminate unnecessary regulatory obstacles to the development of commercial ELV operations and to ensure that those regulations and procedures found essential are administered as efficiently as possible; and

(c) establish timetables for the expeditious handling of and response to applications for licenses and approvals for commercial ELV activities.

Sec. 5. The powers granted to the Secretary of Transportation to encourage, facilitate and coordinate the overall ELV commercialization process shall not diminish or abrogate any statutory or operational authority exercised by any other Federal agency.

Sec. 6. Nothing contained in this Order or in any procedures promulgated hereunder shall confer any substantive or procedural right or privilege on any person or organization, enforceable against the United States, its agencies, its officers or any person.

Sec. 7. This Order shall be effective immediately.

Ronald Reagan.