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Senate gives final passage to bill extending protection for satellite launches

The Senate last night passed, and sent to the President, a Science Committee bill to extend the law under which the U.S. government insures companies that launch satellites for damages or deaths sustained by individuals who were not involved in the launch. The House had passed the bill in October by unanimous consent, and Senate approval was also by unanimous consent; the President is expected to sign it.

The law is due to expire on Dec. 31. The bill will extend the insurance, known as indemnification, for five years, until Dec. 31, 2009. The bill, introduced by Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert would also require a study by a non-governmental entity of whether indemnification could be ended without unduly harming U.S. companies, and, if so, how that should be done.

The House had passed the larger bill, H.R. 3752, in February, and the Science Committee had been working with the Senate Committee on Commerce, Space and Transportation, and with industry since then to come up with a compromise that could pass both houses. An agreement between those committees was finally reached last Friday.