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Remarks by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at the Sixth National Space Council Meeting

AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY

Thank you, Vice President Pence, for the opportunity to update the National Space Council on commercial space activities at the Department of Commerce.

Last year, there were 114 government and private space launches worldwide, the first time in three decades the number exceeded 100. The United States had 31 launches — including a record number of commercial launches — but China had 39. More than 80 countries have entered the global space industry, often playing under different rules. These countries realize that space is a strategic industry that creates a highly technical workforce with spinoff technologies and economic growth.

Seventy-five percent of space industry revenues are commercial. This was evident at the Paris Air Show, which highlighted U.S. leadership but also made clear the substantial efforts of foreign-government backed entities to surpass us. We intend to keep the United States as the “flag of choice” as the global space industry moves from $415 billion toward $1 trillion in revenue within the next two decades. 

The Commerce Department is actively pursuing the agenda and goals outlined in Space Policy Directive 3 on space traffic management. We have a strong partnership with the Department of Defense to modernize our space situational awareness capabilities. Mark Daley, a senior executive with experience at both defense and space commerce, is leading the Commerce Department’s SSA “Landing Team” at the 18th Space Control Squadron at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Our joint SAA efforts will help industry and governments avoid the destructive impact of space debris, especially as space activities grow more complex and global in nature. In response to the Department’s April 2019 Request for Information, more than 50 academic and industry partners submitted ideas to limit the creation of new space debris, through new approaches to satellite design, improved SSA, and early mission de-orbit. 

The Commerce Department’s role is critically important given the plans of commercial industry to launch thousands of mass-produced satellites. Commerce is working to develop an Open Architecture Data Repository for space debris information. This new repository will allow Commerce to provide conjunction notifications to the commercial space industry in the U.S. and throughout the world in the near future. The new repository will incorporate private-sector innovation to track and avoid space debris, which will facilitate new commercial space services.

Under the Space Policy Directive 2 recommendation to eliminate or streamline regulations, we are revising our rules for remote sensing and export controls. We have received extensive feedback from U.S. companies in the fast-developing and extremely competitive global market for remote sensing. Our immediate goal is to produce a new draft rule that encourages domestic innovation while ensuring the global competitiveness and market leadership of American companies. In the area of export controls, Commerce is working with the State Department and other agencies to review public comments on our March proposed rule so that Commerce can issue a final rule this fall. At an industry day I hosted in April, we discussed the need to maintain export controls with some countries, while streamlining them for others. 

Within the Commerce Department, we have re-established the Office of Space Commerce after it was dormant for decades. It is the only place within the U.S. Government that is charged with pursuing the unique interests of the commercial space industry. The commercial industry has said repeatedly that it needs an advocate — a one-stop shop — in its dealings with both the U.S. government and foreign governments. We continue to work within the Administration and Congress to establish a new Bureau of Space Commerce that will give Commerce the resources needed to effectively execute the Space Council’s directives.

Thank you, Mr. Vice President.  I look forward to our discussions. 

Leadership