WASHINGTON — Executives from the nation’s burgeoning space sector were on Capitol Hill on Tuesday hoping to elevate their companies’ profile as Congress begins to consider legislation that could dramatically shape the industry’s future.
“We want to make sure our perspectives are represented as major users of space,” said Tom Stroup, president of the Satellite Industry Association which co-hosted the congressional outreach event with the office of Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash).
“It’s important that we educate members and staffs,” Stroup told SpaceNews.
“Satellites deliver communications, broadband, imaging and remote sensing data, television entertainment, navigation and GPS signals plus life-saving critical emergency response voice and data links,” he said. “People use this technology on a day to day basis but they don’t get to see it or don’t think about it.”
Lawmakers soon will be voting on key measures in which the satellite industry has huge vested interests, such as the expansion of broadband services to rural areas of the United States and government agencies’ jurisdiction over space traffic management and debris.
Access to radio-frequency spectrum also weighs heavy on the minds of the industry, Stroup said. Satellite operators, for example, worry about the possibility that the Federal Communications Commission will give the wireless industry access to spectrum that satellite firms use to deliver cable and broadcast services.
“We want to make sure there’s sufficient recognition of our need for spectrum so we can continue to provide services,” Stroup said.
Congressional committee staffs turn over rather quickly and the industry needs to be continuously engaging officials on the Hill so issues are not forgotten when a key staffer leaves, he said. “Technology in the industry is advancing so rapidly. … Staffs turn over on a regular basis so awareness is an ongoing challenge.”
With regard to broadband, for instance, “They’re not aware of the speeds that are currently offered.”
Issues of space congestion and debris — covered under the umbrella term of “space situational awareness” — are getting a lot of attention, said Travis Langster, a business development executive at the software and data services firm AGI. “These are exciting times,” he said. “There is a lot of energy behind executing space policy.” The Trump administration’s big policy moves — to assign space traffic management duties to the Commerce Department and to direct the Pentagon to create a dedicated military service for space — are grabbing significant interest in Congress.
“One reason we’re here is to engage and discuss what the industry can do,” Langster said.
Besides AGI, other companies participating in the event included L3 Technologies, Lockheed Martin, Maxar Technologies, OneWeb, SES, Spire Global, Viasat, ExoAnalytic Solutions and Hawkeye 360.
Stroup said the satellite industry wants Congress and regulators to be more knowledgeable about the space sector’s increasing impact on the lives of Americans and the need for an orderly space environment.