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Reagan Weighs Ban on Private Shuttle Loads

July 31, 1986|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A Cabinet council majority is recommending that President Reagan ban most commercial and foreign satellites from future space shuttle flights, a White House spokesman said today.

Larry Speakes, the spokesman, said Reagan has yet to decide whether he agrees--or whether the government should build a fourth orbiter to replace the shuttle Challenger, which exploded Jan. 28.

The plan to take NASA out of the business of launching commercial and foreign satellites, Speakes said, is part of an Administration effort to spur the development of a private rocket industry.

"That's their recommendation, to take remedial steps to encourage a private launch capacity," he said.

Baker Headed Council

The proposed policy was developed by a Cabinet council headed by Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III.

The shuttle, scheduled to resume flights in 1988, would carry military and scientific payloads almost exclusively, a report in today's Washington Post said. A few satellites already built specially for the shuttle would be allowed to be launched by it.

Speakes said the objective of the Cabinet council meeting was to "determine what steps the Administration could take to encourage the development of an expandable launch vehicle industry.

"The issue is particularly timely in light of the shuttle situation and the backlog of scientific and military missions that need to be flown, and the council was looking for ways to launch commercial satellites to take up the backlog," he said.

Silent on NASA Position

Speakes declined to comment on the Post report that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration strongly opposes the plan.

Reagan met with top advisers on space policy Tuesday to discuss whether to build a replacement for Challenger.

At the time, the newspaper said, most of the officials suggested that Reagan delay seeking funds for a new shuttle until he submits his fiscal 1988 budget next February because money for a new orbiter would send this year's already huge budget deficit even higher.

A replacement for the shuttle is expected to cost at least $2.5 billion.

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