WASHINGTON — The Commerce Department has hired a veteran of government and industry to be the next director of the Office of Space Commerce (OSC).

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo announced April 27 that Richard DalBello will be the next director of the office, effective May 9. The office, located within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is responsible for a range of commercial space policy activities, from the licensing of commercial remote sensing systems to development of civil space traffic management capabilities.

“He brings the experience and leadership needed that is critical right now as the OSC works closely with the Commerce leadership team, White House, Department of Defense, NASA and the private sector to advance U.S. leadership in the global commercial space industry,” Raimondo said in a statement.

Richard DalBello will start as director of the Office of Space Commerce May 9. Credit: NOAA

DalBello has worked in space for more than 30 years for both companies and government organizations. He was most recently vice president of global engagement at Virgin Galactic, and previously worked for Intelsat General and ICO Global. He also twice worked at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), including as director for space and aeronautics during the Obama administration.

“This is an exciting opportunity and I appreciate the support and encouragement OSC is receiving from NOAA, the Department of Commerce, The White House and Congress,” DalBello said a NOAA statement. “Space safety and sustainability are two of the most critical issues facing the international community today and I am pleased the Biden administration has made these issues a priority.”

Space safety, in the form of civil space traffic management, will be a key issue for DalBello in his new role. The office is in the process of developing an open architecture data repository (OADR) for space situational awareness data that will be used for providing services like conjunction warnings that are currently handled by the Defense Department. The department sought $87.7 million for OSC in its fiscal year 2023 budget request, up from just $16 million appropriated in 2022, primarily to ramp up work on the OADR.

DalBello’s appointment won strong support from industry, who cited his experience in both the public and private sectors. “His wealth of experience as both a commercial satellite industry executive and adviser to the White House OSTP on commercial space matters makes him an ideal new director of the OSC,” said Tom Stroup, president of the Satellite Industry Association, an industry group that DalBello previously led.

“Richard’s deep industry and government experience are well aligned to build Commerce’s space sustainability role and serve as an advocate for maintaining U.S. industry’s leadership in the global space market,” said Mike French, vice president for space systems at the Aerospace Industries Association.

DalBello also got an endorsement from his predecessor, Kevin O’Connell, who served as director of the office from June 2018 to January 2021. In comments during a panel at the GEOINT Symposium, he emphasized the important of leveraging the other parts of the Commerce Department.

“What I hope Rich has access to, as I did, was the direct interest of the secretary and deputy secretary as well as access to the men and women of the Commerce Department where there are so many different tools, ranging from trade advocacy and export controls and the technical agencies,” he said. “Rich will need to have access to all of those organizations seamlessly to bring the businesses of space to bear on what we’re all trying to do in the space economy.”

Debra Werner contributed to this article from Denver.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...