An illustration of a commercial space station in low earth orbit.

Commercial space stations are being developed by a number of companies. These companies are trying to figure out which government agency should be in charge of regulating their outposts once they are up and running.

At the Beyond Earth Symposium, held in Washington, D.C. from October 12 to 13, representatives of private space companies expressed a need for clarity from the federal government about which agency will provide oversight of their future space stations.

Mike Gold, executive vice president for civil space and external affairs at Redwire Space, which is a partner on the Orbital Reef space station being developed by Blue Origin, said that they have to be careful. We need to have certainty in regards to the regulatory structure.

Since 1998, the International Space Station has been servicing Earth. NASA is looking to use the private sector to replace its orbital laboratory, which is due to retire in 2030. Both public and private interests in space will be served by the space station concepts that were developed by Blue Origin and other companies.

There is an issue. The operations of commercial space stations are overseen by a federal agency. According to SpaceNews, the agencies that the companies have had to turn to so far are the FCC for communications licenses, the FAA for launch licenses, and theNOAA for remote sensing licenses.

The private space industry is new, so it's difficult to know who regulates it and how. That doesn't mean solutions aren't available.

George Nield was the former associate administrator for commercial space transportation. That could be a good place to regulate space.

Commercial crewing to the International Space Station has proven to be a work in progress in terms of rules and regulations. The space agency updated some of its rules for future private astronauts after requesting proposals for two more private missions to the International Space Station. NASA admitted to having learned some important lessons after the return of the first private crew to live on the International Space Station.

It may be a process of trial and error as the space agency increasingly works with private space companies, but the companies are frustrated that they don't know where to go. The sky is not falling yet, according to a senior director at Blue Origin. How do we manage the uncertainty that comes with not having a clear path?

NASA advisers worry about the next generation of space stations.