Task Force Name 

Export Control Task Force


J. Simmons (President Mach 30)


Nearly all spaceflight technologies are “export controlled”.  That is, the US government restricts the transfer of these technologies to US persons (citizens, permanent residents, and businesses) unless special permission is granted (on an individual transfer basis).  Transfer of these technologies includes both hardware and the information related to the hardware.  In other words, simply publishing the design details, schematics, or software related to spaceflight on a publicly available website is a federal crime in the US.  And the US government is very serious about enforcing these restrictions for reasons of national security (space related technologies such as rockets and satellites are classified as defense technologies).  The penalties can be quite severe including large fines and jail time.

Several export control regimes impact the work of Mach 30.  Two of particular interest at the present are the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).  For the last two years Mach 30 has been actively researching ITAR and how its restrictions can be reconciled  with Mach 30’s mission of developing open source spaceflight hardware.  The result is an approach based on four strategies:

  1. Develop quasi-open spaceflight projects
  2. Create a catalog of published spaceflight technology
  3. Develop core technologies in non-space disciplines
  4. Partner with non-US groups for technology transfers

All four of these strategies hinge on understanding and properly following ITAR and other export control regimes.  The Export Control Task Force is being created to research, develop, and implement the export control policies and procedures required to be in compliance with ITAR, the MTCR, and other export control regimes.  All materials related to the work of the Export Control Task Force will be published under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (CC-BY) so other spaceflight organizations (non and for profit) may benefit from our work.

For more background, see

A note on ITAR reform

ITAR has, until recently, classified satellite technologies as “munitions” making all things related to satellites fall under ITAR control.  Recent reforms of ITAR have begun to move some satellite technologies from ITAR (a control regime managed by the Department of State) to a control regime managed by the Department of Commerce.  This does not exempt satellite technologies from export control, it merely simplifies the paperwork required to obtain permission for a specific export request.  Openly publishing of satellite designs is still illegal, even with these reforms.

Scope of Work

The Export Control Task Force will start by addressing policies and procedures for ITAR, and address other export control regimes afterwards.  This work is primarily in support of strategy #1 above, but is essential for understanding the work required to implement the other three strategies.

The first step will be to organize Mach 30’s export control support resources.  As part of our earlier research, Mach 30 has made contact with a number of experts in ITAR and export control.  Some of these experts have offered assistance, some have not been asked yet.  The Export Control Task force will begin its work by cataloging and formalizing these relationships so we have the support we need to do the remaining work.

The second step will be to develop a Technology Control Plan (TCP).  The TCP is a document which covers the processes which will be used to protect ITAR related technologies and lists which projects are going to be protected by these processes.  Mach 30 has an example TCP which we can use as a template as we develop our own TCP.  The Export Control Task Force will focus its early work on drafting the Mach 30 TCP, getting it reviewed by experts, and bringing it to the Mach 30 Board of Directors for approval.

After completing the TCP, the Export Control Task Force will implement the policies and procedures in the TCP.  This includes, but is not limited to:

Once a solid foundation for following ITAR is established, Mach 30 should be in a good position for executing strategy #1 above.  The Export Control Task Force will then revisit its scope of work (in consultation with the Mach 30 Board) to determine whether the next phase of its work should address the other three strategies or begin work on MTCR compliance.