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Remarks by Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at the Department of Commerce Space Investment Summit


(Introduced by James Uthmeier, Senior Advisor, Office of Policy and Strategic Planning, U.S. Department of Commerce)

Thank you, James, for that kind introduction, and welcome everyone to the U.S. Department of Commerce for our first-ever Space Investment Summit. Thank you to the speakers for being here, and for those of you from government, industry, academia, and elsewhere for taking the time out of your busy schedules to attend.

The United States is experiencing a significant revival of its space industry. In 2011, the Space Shuttle program concluded after more than 30 years and 135 missions. It was all but certain that the Space Coast of Florida would turn into a Ghost Coast of abandoned dreams. Thousands of space engineers, scientists, technicians, and contractors were dependent on federal-government launches and satellite systems.

The industry was in turmoil, and full retreat. But that changed, and it changed quickly. Thanks to many of the people in this room, Cape Canaveral is rumbling with excitement once again.  Those some 10,000 lost jobs have all but returned. The industry is being transformed, transitioning from public-sector dependence to private-sector dominance.

Today, commercial enterprise accounts for about 80 percent of space activity. The global space economy now totals almost $400 billion. This is up from last year’s $340 billion estimate. Seeing such bounty, more than 70 countries are now engaged in the global space industry, with more entering the market every year.

In the United States, both new entrepreneurs and our venerable aerospace giants are driving the industry’s growth. It is embracing radical new ideas, and is introducing new technologies, new launch systems, satellites, and services. Ventures in space launch, space manufacturing, satellite servicing, space tourism, and asteroid mining are on the verge of potentially explosive growth. But while venture capital continues to support these new endeavors, more traditional financial service participants – big banks and lending institutions - have not been as active.

We need to change that.

As the global space industry approaches the threshold of $1 trillion a year in annual revenue, both its fledgling and established firms need large-scale infusions of capital – capital that the biggest banks and investment firms can provide.

Next Friday we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8. It’s a great opportunity to look at America’s progress in space, and what must be done to ensure that we continue to be the global leader in space. Today, there is a new space race—one driven by private industry.

The Trump Administration is rolling back regulations to enable industry to flourish, and the declining cost of launch is making space more accessible. Replication, ride sharing, and ground-breaking commercial services are creating new business opportunities.  Now we need long-term, large-scale investment. And that’s why we are hosting this event today.

Some segments of industry, like remote sensing, already have clearly recurring sources of revenue.  Others, are still finding their way. Soon, markets for space tourism, in-space manufacturing, and space debris mitigation – among others - will need financing at all levels of the capital structure to redefine the space economy.

Today, I am excited to host you here at the Commerce Department to discuss the potential of new sources of financing and opportunities for this exciting industry. I hope this meeting — and others that we will hold in the future — will help provide links between the financial community and space companies that are truly changing the course of American industry. With the financial sector’s involvement, our pioneering space companies will usher in a new era of economic growth, benefitting every American and every citizen on the planet.

I will lead the discussion for the first panel. Joining me are: Ed Eppler from Goldman Sachs; Alistair Borthwick from the Bank of America; and Ray Johnson from Bessemer Venture Partners; Thank you, again, for joining us.

I truly want this discussion to be interactive.  I encourage our audience, and panelists, to raise questions as necessary.  And I invite all to contribute answers, ideas, and suggestions.  The goal here is to expand the space commerce conversation, and we are doing it!