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Land Remote Sensing Policy Act of 1992, Pub. L. No. 102-555, 106 Stat. 4163-4180, codified at 15 U.S.C. §5601 (1992).
The Act declared the commercialization of land remote sensing to be a long-term policy goal of the United States, and established procedures for licensing private remote sensing operators. The Act repealed the prior Land Remote-Sensing Commercialization Act of 1984.
Specific matters addressed by the Act included program management; Landsat 7 procurement; Landsat 4 through 7 data policy; transfer of Landsat 6 program responsibilities; regulatory authority and administration of public and private remote sensing systems; federal research and development; advanced technology demonstration; Landsat 7 successor systems; data availability and archiving; and the continued prohibition of weather satellite commercialization As a whole the new legislation had three primary features: a focus on the value of remote sensing in conducting global change research and other public sector applications; a recasting of the remote sensing activities; and provisions for the future evolution of remote sensing policy.
The Act strongly supported "continuous collection and utilization of land remote sensing data from space" in the belief that such data are of "major benefit in studying and understanding human impacts on the global environment, in managing the Earth natural resources, in carrying out national security functions, and in planning and conducting many other activities of scientific, economic, and social importance."
According to the Act, a license must be granted before an entity can begin operating a remote sensing satellite. The licensee must protect U.S. national security, observe international obligations of the United States, make raw images available at a reasonable cost to the governments of the lands observed, and notify the Secretary of Commerce of any significant international agreements entered into by the licensee. The Act also prohibits use of remote sensing to gather, transmit, or deliver defense-related information for the benefit of any foreign government or to publish photographs of defense facilities.
The new law modifies the previous nondiscriminatory access data policy as applied to private system operators. They are now required to make unenhanced data available only to the governments of sensed states, thus freeing them to make data available to all other customers according to market forces, Originally, a foreign policy intended to assuage non-spacefaring nations' fears of economic and military espionage, nondiscriminatory access required that data from the government-funded and operated Landsat system be made available to all users at the cost of reproduction and distribution. Under the prior Landsat Act, the policy was interpreted to mean that private operators had to charge the same price to all users which, at thousands of dollars per frame, put the data beyond the reach of many researchers and developing nations.
The converse effect of requiring private operators to make data available only to sensed states is that the Act recommits the United States to the foreign policy aspects of nondiscriminatory access and acknowledges the interests of foreign nations in preserving nondiscriminatory distribution. The Act still places government systems under the nondiscriminatory access policy.
The Secretary of Defense and the NASA Administrators are jointly responsible for the Landsat Management Program and maintaining unclassified data continuity. The management program is to be equally funded by NASA and DOD and has to report to Congress in October 1993, and biennially thereafter, regarding public comments about system use, volume of use, and, recommendations for policy and programmatic changes. Management responsibilities include contract oversight, bringing Landsat 7 online, operating the Landsat system, meeting the requirements of the Global Change Research Act of 1990, and coordinating an advanced remote sensing technology demonstration program. DOD is responsible for satellite and sensor design and development. NASA is responsible for ground operations and data distribution. The President is authorized to declassify intelligence satellite technology for the Landsat advanced technology demonstration program. The Landsat Management Program Will seek impartial advice through the Landsat Advisory Process, which will draw perspectives from state and local government agencies, academia, and business, as well as from a broad diversity of people of age, gender, and race.
- ↑ Pub. L. No. 102-555, §§2, 201.