U.S. takes satellites off weapons list

Jan. 10, 2013 at 7:53 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- Commercial spaceflight companies say a change in a U.S. anti-arms trafficking law means satellites are no longer considered weapons, opening up sales chances.

President Barack Obama authorized a revision Jan. 3 of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations law, which had since 1999 listed U.S. satellites and related technology as munitions with strict limits on exports to foreign powers.

The change will allow commercial companies to sell their orbital satellite technologies on the global market rather than just within the United States, NewScientist.com reported Wednesday.

While the modification of the law takes Earth-orbiting satellites and technologies off the list, the ruling doesn't apply to some countries, including China, Iran and North Korea.

Those in the commercial spaceflight industry said they hoped the rule changes could in the future be extended to space-tourism equipment such as crew capsules, which remain restricted by the trafficking law.

"Space technologies that in the past had primarily military uses, or which had mixed military and civilian uses, are becoming primarily commercial and therefore should be regulated as such," Alex Saltman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation in Washington said.

Commercial companies said they cannot afford to innovate unless they are allowed to sell their technology abroad.

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