Commercial Space – From Experimental to Entrepreneurial
The Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Council (COMSTAC) is meeting today at DOT. There will be much to discuss, as the space launch industry has matured into a viable and profitable industry.
Last year, America recaptured global leadership with a banner number of launches. This was a big change. Just six years ago, in 2012, the United States was only third, behind both Russia and China. Now, our space industry is not only number one, it is on track to set a new record for launches in 2018.
Being number one in space launches is not just a matter of national pride. A recent study estimated that the 2017 launch market was worth almost $9 billion, and will triple in 7 years to more than $27 billion.
Space technology has the potential to transform the economy by enabling worldwide high-bandwidth communication services, near real-time Earth imaging, and hypersonic technology that can shuttle people into orbit or across the globe. Lower cost space launch capabilities may even make it possible to harvest precious metals from asteroids. The rocket launch industry will not only create good jobs – it will drive future innovation, just as it always has.
The Department of Transportation, which is responsible for commercial space activities, has led the way in establishing an environment that both promotes safety and encourages innovation. Our nation now leads the world in developing, building and launching reusable rockets as well as new kinds of satellites and satellite deployment systems.
The Department has also encouraged construction of space launch infrastructure that will enable this vital industry to continue growing. America now has 10 spaceports, several of which began as state and local initiatives with private sector involvement.
The role the Department of Transportation has played in the maturation of our commercial space industry is a point of pride for the Department. Thirty-four years ago, on February 24, 1984, President Ronald Reagan signed Executive Order 12465 naming the Department as the lead agency for encouraging and facilitating commercial launch activities. The Office of Commercial Space Transportation has helped promote the safe innovation that has led to this rocket renaissance. And an important partner in this effort has been COMSTAC. This council, which is composed of stakeholders in every part of the commercial space industry, has played, and will continue to play an important advisory role in the effort to keep America number one in the space launch sector.
(Falcon Heavy Boosters at Landing Zone-1, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.)