Thursday, January 24, 2013

Congress Removes Export Prohibition on Satellites

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 -- passed by Congress in late December and signed by President Obama on January 2 -- removes a restriction that has essentially shut down international cooperation for building amateur satellites in the past decade. 

Under the old law, satellites and their component parts were considered to be "munitions" and their export to other countries was severely limited. This made it impossible for amateur satellite organizations in different countries to work together on major projects (for example, the last big amateur satellite, Phase 3D, was built jointly by AMSAT groups in the U.S., Germany and other countries). 

The new law restricts satellite exports only to China, North Korea and countries identified as state sponsors of terrorism, as well as those under trade embargoes. A recommendation from the departments of state and defense said the old law impeded the ability of American satellite builders to work with international partners while "providing no noticeable benefit to national security."