SEC. 505. SUBORBITAL RESEARCH ACTIVITIES.

  1. Sense of Congress- It is the sense of Congress that suborbital flight activities, including the use of sounding rockets, aircraft, and high-altitude balloons, and suborbital reusable launch vehicles, offer valuable opportunities to advance science, train the next generation of scientists and engineers, and provide opportunities for participants in the programs to acquire skills in systems engineering and systems integration that are critical to maintaining the Nation’s leadership in space programs. The Congress believes that it is in the national interest to expand the size of NASA’s suborbital research program. It is further the sense of Congress that funding for suborbital research activities should be considered part of the contribution of NASA to United States competitive and educational enhancement and should represent increased funding as contemplated in section 2001 of the America COMPETES Act (42 U.S.C. 16611(a)).

  2. Review of Suborbital Mission Capabilities

    1. IN GENERAL- Not later than 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall enter into an arrangement with the National Academies to conduct a review of the suborbital mission capabilities of NASA.

    2. MATTERS REVIEWED- The review required by paragraph (1) shall include a review of the following:

      1. Existing programs that make use of suborbital flights.

      2. The status, capability, and availability of suborbital platforms, and the infrastructure and workforce necessary to support them.

      3. Existing or planned launch facilities for suborbital missions.

      4. Opportunities for scientific research, training, and educational collaboration in the conduct of suborbital missions by NASA, especially as they relate to the findings and recommendations of the National Academies decadal surveys and report on ‘Building a Better NASA Workforce: Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration’.

    1. REPORT-

      1. IN GENERAL- Not later than 15 months after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall submit to the Committee on Science and Technology of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate a report on the review required by this subsection.

      2. CONTENTS- The report required by this paragraph shall include a summary of the review; the findings of the Administrator with respect to such review; recommendations regarding the growth of suborbital launch programs conducted by NASA; and the steps necessary to ensure such programs are conducted using domestic launch facilities to the maximum extent practicable, including any rationale and justification for using non-domestic facilities for such missions.



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