WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Ken Calvert addressed the eighth annual AST Commercial Space Transportation Conference today. 

“It’s an exciting time for commercial space transportation.  That’s why I wanted to address this conference so soon after becoming chairman,” said Calvert, who was selected last week to chair the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee of the House Science Committee.

Calvert noted the need for new space launch systems and asked those in attendance to offer up innovative solutions.  “In 2010 the Shuttle will be retired.  So there is right now a need to move people into space quickly, safely and reliably. I believe that need could be met in large part by the private sector and that the people in this room will play a key role in making it happen. The job of Congress is to pass legislation and exercise its oversight functions in such a way that will enable this industry to succeed,” stated Calvert. 

After the address Calvert took questions from the audience on the potential for new space prize incentives, investment opportunities in space and his legislative goals as Chairman of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee.

Since 1998, the office of the FAA’s Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation (AST) has invited all of those interested in the commercial space transportation industry to join the office for a two-day conference in the Washington, DC, area featuring dozens of industry and government experts speaking on and discussing a wide range of topics of interest to the space launch community. This year, the conference theme is, “Ready for the Next Giant Leap,” looking at the latest developments in expendable and reusable launch vehicles, and the potential for new markets, especially space tourism. More information on the conference is available at http://ast.faa.gov/aboutast/conference.htm .

The full text of Congressman Calvert’s address is included below.


Congressman Ken Calvert address to Commercial Space Transportation Congress, February 10, 2005.

It’s an exciting time for commercial space transportation.  That’s why I wanted to address this group so soon after becoming chairman.  I want to share my thoughts on the best way to manage the relationship between this industry and the government. Let me begin by saying that the United States government officially endorses, supports, and indeed depends upon a viable U.S. commercial space transportation industry. I was selected to chair Space and Aeronautics subcommittee last week.  I’ve been a member of the Subcommittee since my first term in Congress.

We are living on the cusp of a new era in Space Exploration.  President Bush has announced his new vision for Space exploration and the Aldridge report outlines a way for us to achieve that vision.  We hope and believe that the Shuttle will soon return to flight and continue the assembly of the ISS. In 2010 the shuttle will be retired.  So there is right now a demand for a way to move people and cargo into space quickly, safely and reliably.  I believe that need could be met in large part by the private sector and that the people in this room will play a key role in making it happen.

In addition to this need, the potential for technological advancement from the developments in commercial space transportation are tremendous.  That’s why we need to ensure that the United States remains attractive to commercial space developers.

I think we got off to a strong start with the recent enactment of H.R. 5382, the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004.  That law provides a regulatory framework that is intended to give those in the human commercial space flight industry the “breathing room” needed to grow.  As Ronald Reagan once said, “you have to cut red tape to see blue sky.” – and that’s the general philosophy of the law. My predecessor as Chairman, Dana Rohrabacher was instrumental in both authoring and passing that legislation.

A cutting edge industry like commercial human space transportation needs the freedom to innovate and experiment.  Success will come more from test flights than computer simulation.  We need to recognize at the outset that not all launches will be successful and that there will be risks.

That said, the process of nurturing the industry and its research requires a certain degree of regulation to attract investment and insurers.  The government has the responsibility to provide the highest level of safety to the uninvolved public, and to ensure that the passengers who will fly on these new craft be fully informed of the risks. 

H.R. 5382 struck an appropriate balance among these competing priorities.  It provides for liability risk sharing with the government and government indemnification.  Under this umbrella the industry will be able to move forward. Just as crucial to the commercial space industry is the new U.S. Space Transportation Policy signed by the President on December 21, 2004. 

It tells our government agencies how to operate with regard to space.  I think this document is an important step forward for the commercial space transportation industry and I echo its sentiments. Here are some of the critical highlights:

It puts our government on record as being committed to “encouraging and facilitating a viable U.S. commercial space transportation industry.” In order to do that it directs United States Government departments and agencies to:

  •         Purchase commercially available U.S. space transportation products and services; 
  •         Provide a timely and responsive regulatory environment for licensing commercial space launch and reentry activities;
  •         Refrain from conducting activities with commercial applications that preclude, deter, or compete with U.S. commercial space transportation activities;
  •         Provide stable and predictable access to the Federal space launch bases and ranges on a direct-cost basis; this means the government is not allowed to use these facilities to generate revenue.
  •         Encourage private and government investment in the development and improvement of space infrastructure, including non-Federal launch and reentry sites; we’re going to need more places to launch and recover these new space vehicles. 

Most importantly, in my view, is that it directs the Secretaries of Commerce and Transportation to “encourage, facilitate, and promote U.S. commercial space transportation activities, including commercial human space flight.”

With the recent success of SpaceShipOne in the field of private human space flight and the attention it received, it is evident that ordinary citizens want to take the extraordinary journey into space.  Now, the Government must adopt a regulatory framework that enables you in the industry to make those dreams a reality.

But this is not just about space tourism, which is a natural first step in commercial human space transportation.  This industry is much broader than space tourism and has to move forward because the new vision on Space exploration, our economy and our national defense depend upon it. 

Over the past fifty years, the pattern we’ve seen has been NASA breaking new ground and then industry adopting, improving and refining the new technologies.  I believe that pattern will continue in the future, but with industry working with NASA and improving the technologies and efficiencies at a faster rate.

NASA’s first big achievement in U.S. Human space flight was sending Alan Shepard into Space on a suborbital flight.  SpaceShipOne essentially duplicated Alan Shepard’s suborbital flight.  Critics might say that this feat was less impressive because NASA did it over forty years ago.

That is true, NASA did it long ago, but the SpaceShipOne team did it for around $20 million.  I know that today NASA could not put a man in sub orbital space for $20 million.  In fact, I don’t think they could do it for $200 million.

But the reason NASA couldn’t do it for $200 million isn’t because they don’t have the drive, the talent, or the will to put people in space on the cheap.  The fact of the matter is that NASA is a government agency and government agencies operate under different conditions and in a different environment than the private sector. 

NASA got the U.S. into suborbital space.  The commercial space industry will make that journey more efficient, affordable and accessible. 

NASA’s second major milestone in U.S. Human Space Flight was putting John Glenn into orbit and orbital flight is the next challenge for the pioneers of commercial human space flight.     I’m looking forward to seeing an American company put the first private citizen into orbit and bringing him back  Current legislation doesn’t specifically address orbital flights, but I can assure you that one requirement will be for round trip tickets. 

NASA’s third milestone in Human space flight was sending man to the moon and returning him safely to Earth.  Widely considered among the greatest of man’s achievements, the Moon landing inspired a generation.  And now we look to the Moon once again, but this time as a preliminary destination – a testing ground – for a longer and broader mission to Mars. 

As NASA works on its fourth major milestone, having a continuous human presence in space, commercial space innovators are contemplating their own manned missions to orbital space hotels. 

NASA’s mandate is to further our exploration in space.  Its mission must be to pave the way into space so the commercial sector can follow.  NASA is going to take on the space projects that are just too big and too leading edge for the private sector alone.  This is the pattern we’ve seen in the past and it is the pattern we’ll see in the future.

As NASA formulates its plans for a Moon-Mars mission, the commercial space transportation industry is ready.  We’ve been to the Moon before but the goal this time is to establish a permanent, sustainable presence.  To get there and stay there we’ll need unprecedented technological breakthroughs.  Some of these will come from NASA and some will come from the private sector. 

In my view, in order for NASA to achieve its exploration goals two things are going to have to happen.  The first is that NASA needs to be restructured to focus on its core mission of Space exploration.  This is already happening.  NASA has been restructured into four distinct Mission Directorates, with Exploration Systems as one of the directorates.  This process of aligning the organization with its objectives and goals is not yet complete.  After we return to flight, I intend to focus on the President’s Vision and ongoing refinement to NASA’s mission and infrastructure.

The second thing that will have to happen is that a newly focused NASA will rely on the commercial space transportation industry to accomplish its mission.  As NASA shares technological innovations with the private sector it will be up to the private sector to figure out how to efficiently implement these technologies into space transportation. It is vitally important that NASA learn to buy space goods and services from this industry in a market-friendly fashion.  NASA needs to do this not just to help the industry, but to help itself move out into the frontier and explore. 

This will be crucial because the NASA budget is going to remain the same, in real dollars, for the foreseeable future.  The days of the unlimited budgets of the Apollo era are long gone. A nearly unlimited budget was a key enabler in getting us to the moon.  We basically applied a Manhattan Project mindset to get us to the moon as quickly as possible.  Our Journey to the moon was born of a national imperative to beat the Soviet Union in the space race.  We wanted to get to the moon but we had no comprehensive vision or strategy on what to do once we got there.  That lack of vision was due more to a lack of money than a lack of inspiration among NASA and the space community.  The reality was that there just wasn’t going to be an unlimited funding stream after Apollo.

But now, nearly four decades later, after some missteps, I think we are putting in place the structure, strategy and funding to move forward with a sustainable space exploration vision. Some of this is born of necessity.  Our government and economy now rely on space assets to function. Communications, weather and surveillance satellites have been in use for decades.  But never before have space assets played such a role in our daily lives.  Global Positioning Systems are now the primary means of commercial air and sea navigation.  They are available for our cars and used by backpackers.  Millions of Americans have Direct TV dishes on their houses or listen to satellite radio on their daily commute.  Our government uses satellites to monitor enemy communications and coordinate military operations.  We are developing space systems to protect us from enemy missiles. But this new reliance on space has not come with much improved access to space.  Disruption of space assets today will have a much more significant impact on our security and economy than it would have just a few years ago.

So we need to find a way to improve our access to space.  We need affordable, reliable and responsive ways to get people and hardware into orbit.  NASA took the lead in proving we could get there.  Now it is the private sector’s duty to make it efficient and affordable. 

The job of Congress is to pass legislation and exercise its oversight functions in such a way that will enable this industry to succeed.  We must keep a watchful eye on our government agencies to ensure they are operating and cooperating with the commercial Space industry and not implementing unnecessary or overly burdensome regulations.  In the American tradition, government opens frontiers but people settle them.  This was true in the west, with medical research and with cyberspace.  If we follow that model we will succeed. 

In conclusion, I’d like to say that my door is always open to the commercial space transportation industry.  I want to hear your ideas on how we move commercial space forward and what the government can do to help.  I only have one rule when you visit with me – No PowerPoint briefings – Well, you can have a PowerPoint brief, but it can’t have any more slides than I presented here today.

Before I take your questions I’d like to introduce some staff who will be working with me on space issues. Bill Adkins is the Majority Staff Director of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee.  Tim Hughes is Majority Counsel to the Science Committee.  Deena Contreras is my Legislative Assistant for Space and Aeronautics and Bob Carretta is my Communications Director.