Space industry group warns small companies will not survive crisis without stimulus

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CSF President Eric Stallmer: “The large companies will weather the storm. I’m worried about their suppliers."

WASHINGTON — The Commercial Spaceflight Federation, an industry group that represents 85 companies in the space sector, is working with congressional committees to ensure coronavirus stimulus legislation includes assistance for small and mid-size suppliers, CSF President Eric Stallmer told SpaceNews.

The CSF represents large space companies like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin but the majority of its members are small and medium size entrepreneurial companies that are in danger of going out of business as programs and investments dry up during the COVID-19 pandemic, Stallmer said.

“The large companies will weather the storm,” he said. “I’m worried about their suppliers. Those are going to need help.”

In a letter sent to congressional leaders last week, CSF warned that the unfolding crisis “threatens to inflict lasting harm” to the space industry.

Stallmer noted that the current emergency is unprecedented in that it hits nearly every sector of the U.S. economy, so it’s not helpful for trade associations to fight over what industries the government should help at the expense of others.

“We recognize the number-one priority is the health of the nation,” he said.

The space industry enjoys widespread support on Capitol Hill because of its importance to national security and for being a driver of economic growth, said Stallmer. “Congressional staff and members that have been champions of the space industry reached out to us and asked what they can do to help.”

One of CSF’s proposals is to establish a $5 billion grant or low-interest loan program to help small and medium firms weather the storm for the next several months.

Stallmer said it’s difficult to pin down solutions because “everything is so fluid” now with the virus still spreading and Congress writing legislation while events unfold. “We are asking for help so small companies can keep their employees through the crisis,” he said. “This is not the time for everyone to try to push their wish list.”

Lawmakers want to be helpful, said Stallmer. “We’re all figuring this out as we go. Things change every day.”