U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross: “A Bright Future for U.S. Leadership of Space Commerce”

Originally posted by the U.S. Department of Commerce here

CAPE CANAVERAL – U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross delivered the following remarks today at the second meeting of the reconstituted National Space Council.

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery:

Mr. Vice President, Members of the National Space Council, the User Advisory Committee, and distinguished guests:

A couple of weeks ago, here at Cape Canaveral, we watched the successful launch of Space X’s Falcon Heavy rocket, the most powerful in the world today.

Two first-stage boosters disengaged and changed direction in unison to land back here at Kennedy Space Center. This was their second use. You saw one of them as you came in. It just needs a paint job to be ready for its third launch. An amazing technological and commercial feat!

Many people said it could never be done.

Well, the naysayers have once again been proven wrong.

The future is here my friends, and we must be ready for it!

Thanks to impressive feats such as this, the United States is the leader in space once again.

Somewhere out there in space is a bright red roadster going thousands of miles per hour.

I’m told it’s the fastest car in history.

We had better keep up.

Space is already a $330 billion industry supporting 211,000 U.S. jobs and is forecast to be a multitrillion-dollar one in coming decades – but there now are at least 70 countries trying to make their way into space.

Also, our share of the 1,700 new companies created worldwide last year was only 45%, far lower than our share of launches.

Private companies funded $3.9 billion of our space effort last year, but they are competing against many foreign governments, so they need all the help we can give them.

The countries new to space actually have an inherent advantage in terms of the regulatory environment because they carry no baggage from the earlier, simpler days of space. In contrast, much of our remote sensing regulatory regime celebrated its 25th birthday last year. Space 25 years ago bears little resemblance to space today.

Back then, if something new came along it looked a lot like what was already there. Now the rate of innovation is extraordinary, so we need an adaptable and relatively permissive regulatory system for space commerce.

NOAA, the FAA, the FCC and other agencies each have a role, and there are obligations to DoD, the IC and State as well. That complexity causes delay.

Since the Council’s first meeting last October, the Department of Commerce has identified regulatory barriers to commercial space activity and developed a vision for the future of space commerce.

Commerce’s review of the outdated regulatory framework, discussions with an ambitious but frustrated space industry, and meetings within the Administration have made one thing clear: The rate of regulatory change must match the rate of technological change!

The government must not stand in the way of this progress, as it so often does.

It is time to unshackle business activity in space.

That is how we will ensure that businesses choose the United States as their flag of choice for space activity.

We must create a regulatory framework that best enables space commerce.

For too long the commercial space industry has been forced to waste valuable time and resources interfacing with a multitude of government agencies and regulatory bodies.

So, at the Department, we are working to create a new “one-stop shop” for space commerce.

Mr. Vice President, with the Council’s direction, I will move the Office of Space Commerce and the Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs office from their present location in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to my direct oversight in the Office of the Secretary.

This will provide increased access and enable swift regulatory decision making.

This elevated and amplified Office of Space Commerce will coordinate all space-related functions at the Department – remote sensing, spectrum policy, business and trade promotion, and export controls, to name a few.

Our goal is ease and efficiency.

In addition to the proposed relocation of the Office of Space Commerce within my office, we will also soon name a Director of the Office of Space Commerce.

This position has been vacant for over ten years because the previous Administration abdicated leadership in the commercial space arena.

That is over now!

We also are providing to the Bureau of Industry and Security, and NTIA, additional funding for their space-focused activities. We are also instructing our Foreign Commercial Services teams located in 105 cities around the world to recruit foreign space businesses to our country.

In addition, Space will be featured during our SelectUSA conference in June which last year attracted 3,000 foreign direct investment participants from around the world.

The Department further proposes that the Space Council recommend to the President that all space commerce responsibilities, other than the launch and reentry licensing presently managed by the Department of Transportation, be consolidated in the Department of Commerce.

The Space Council can utilize a revitalized Office of Space Commerce to further advance American leadership in space.

With that goal, we recommend that the President direct the Office of Space Commerce to develop, in concert with the Council and industry players, regulations and legislation for an effective mission authorization framework for all commercial activities in space.

If this is approved promptly by the President, we pledge to make those proposals no later than July 1. There already is H.R. 2809 which has cleared its committee in the House and is awaiting floor approval.

Activities such as asteroid mining, space tourism, and space habitation are quickly becoming more than the fictions we read about or saw in movies as children.

We need a future-oriented space commerce agenda and supportive regulatory regime.

With input and guidance from the Space Council, the Department of Commerce can be the one-stop shop the industry so sorely needs. The mindset should be one of sensible facilitation.

In addition, the Department recommends that the President call on the Departments of Commerce, State, and Defense to continue efforts to simplify their existing commercial remote sensing licensing regime and to propose any needed legislative changes.

That process must be made more efficient and predictable.

Satellite companies face a permitting timeline that is undefined, indefinite and provides no certainty or predictability to the industry.

Permitting can sometimes take five or more years. With the time from design to launch now much shorter than that regulation is, unfortunately, the gating factor.

This is unacceptable and must change!

If we don’t make life easier for the remote sensing industry, companies and customers will go overseas to fulfill their needs.

Mr. Vice President, there are at least two other areas where the Department of Commerce can play an important role for American leadership in space.

Those are in spectrum policy and export licensing. Bureaus of the Commerce Department are involved already with both.

Spectrum is a scarce resource that is essential for space activities.

Spectrum facilitates communications, control, and the transmission of valuable data back to Earth.

The National Space Council should recommend that the Department be directed to develop and advocate for spectrum policies to support commercial space activities while respecting the needs of DoD and others.

Finally, Commerce recommends that the Space Council and the Executive Secretary immediately review export licensing regulations affecting commercial space activity.

Today, if a company launches a vehicle that returns to Earth in international waters or non-U.S. territory, it is treated as an “export” of sensitive and dangerous technology.

This approach is a primary complaint of space companies.

So, to those companies, I hear you.

And, if the President approves our recommendations, we will continue working with our colleagues at State and DoD to enable more commercial activity while also protecting our national security.

If the United States is to continue to lead in space, we have got to create the right conditions.

It is essential to jobs, economic growth, and national security.

That little red Tesla in outer space does need rules of the road, but there shouldn’t be too many one-way streets, dead ends or U-turns!

I promise you that Commerce will be a good steward!

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