U.S. government plans review of space technology export controls – SpaceNews

COLORADO SPRINGS — The State and Commerce Departments will start a process this summer to update space systems on export control lists, potentially lessening the restrictions on some technologies.

Speaking at the 39th Space Symposium April 9, Chirag Parikh, executive secretary of the National Space Council, said the upcoming review was needed to reflect rapid changes in space capabilities since the last time space export controls were reformed in the early 2010s.

“It’s been over a decade since we had the last significant amount of export control review on space technology,” he said. “I think the technology has evolved. I think the global capabilities of space have evolved.”

Parikh said the plan is for the State Department and Commerce Department to release an advance notification for potential rulemaking in mid-June. That will consider what technologies currently on the U.S. Munitions List, which is administered by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), could be moved to the Commercial Control List, which is under the less restrictive Export Administration Regulations (EAR).

The notification does not mean any technologies will be moved from ITAR to EAR, but it will solicit comment on what technologies should be considered. “We encourage you to provide official responses when that comes out,” he said, “and we look forward to being able to further facilitate some of the efforts going on here.”

Many in industry, including those involved in the previous export control reform efforts, have argued that a new review of space technologies currently under ITAR is needed.

“While we’ve made progress, technology also moves on. If we don’t evolve our export control rules to cover what’s happening now, we’re going to find ourselves in the exact same place we were a decade ago,” said Mike Gold, chief growth officer at Redwire and who previously advocated for export control reforms, during a panel at the FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference in February.

Parikh said he was aware of the need to keep U.S. companies competitive through updated export controls. “We need to make sure that we have a fair and level playing field so we have competition globally and we can also enable partnerships along the way as well.”

Improved export controls can also benefit international partnerships, another major theme of Parikh’s speech. He said a focus for this year is to have agencies such as NASA, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) collaborate on how to use space to help other countries. One example is an interagency delegation that attended the NewSpace Africa Conference in Angola earlier this month.

“It’s not space capacity building. It’s international capacity building using space,” he emphasized. “We have so many programs across the government, across nonprofit institutions that can benefit from the services you all provide today, and we need to take advantage of that.”

He noted, though, that the U.S. government remains interested in helping countries develop space policies and adopt best practices, such as through implementation of aspects of the Artemis Accords. On national security, he added, “let’s just say there’s a lot of initiatives going on right now. There’s a lot of challenges that we must unencumber.”

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews.

He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science…
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