Was this page helpful?

Remarks by Deputy Secretary of Commerce Karen Dunn Kelley at the Space Enterprise Summit


Introduced by John Harrison, Senior Advisor and Senior Administration Official for Oceans, International Environmental and Scientific Affairs 

Thank you, John, for that kind introduction, and welcome to this exciting and historic summit. Secretary Ross was asked to attend the G-20 with the President, and is currently in route to Osaka, Japan. Please know, however, that he is very disappointed to not have the chance to address you this afternoon. He has been anticipating this Summit for months, promoting it at every chance he had.

The State Department is the perfect place for this meeting, since the success of the space industry depends importantly on nations working together to address common challenges.  The dual themes of space commerce and space diplomacy work very well together!  

Over the next two days, we have an impressive gathering of speakers and attendees to discuss the essential issues facing the 79 nations engaged in the development of space. Your involvement in this Summit will set us on firm footing as we move toward more international collaboration in developing new space applications, and streamlining regulations and standards to promote new business investment.

Over the next two days, this group of more than 500 participants from 27 countries will discuss the government and commercial partnerships required for: new space business services that will enhance our lives on earth, a return to the Moon, and the exploration of Mars and beyond. 

Our discussions will include space agency heads including NASAs Jim Bridenstine, CEOs, and many other dignitaries and space industry innovators. All are here to explore how we achieve the goal of creating a trillion-dollar space economy by 2040. You will discuss how established and emerging space participants can realize their ambitious plans for exploration and commerce. As we all know, the space industry has moved into a new realm, shifting from government domination to a commercial, competitive market driven by a new generation of risk takers.

The successful and historic launch on Monday of the Space X Falcon Heavy is just the latest milestone in a phenomenal rebirth of an industry that not long ago was considered in decline.
Our congratulations to the engineers, technicians, flight team, executives, financiers, and everyone engaged with SpaceX on that awe-inspiring success. But with the addition of 24 more satellites launched this week on the Falcon Heavy, it means we have to work harder than ever to ensure that the space environment remains safe and stable.

Along these lines, we should recognize that last week the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space passed 21 long-term sustainability guidelines. This is an important milestone in improving space safety. It is the basis for developing a framework that will allow the safe access and use of space. Congratulations to the U.S. delegation and all of you who participated in the UN process, especially the active role played by the private sector.

Last week, Secretary Ross and Administrator Bridenstine were part of a large delegation of US government officials to the Paris Air Show. Many of the countries represented here today demonstrated a phenomenal array of leading-edge space and aerospace technologies. With a new spirit of entrepreneurship, this industry will be one of the strongest generators of economic growth over the next two decades.  

We know that talent is a decisive variable in the trillion-dollar space economy. In addition to engineering and other technically skilled workers, we will need a much more diverse base of professionals, including in the arts and communications, business specialists, financiers, lawyers, and even those who are prepared for extraterrestrial residency.

This Summit will also discuss how to inspire the next generation of space entrepreneurs. It will be especially interesting to hear about the important, but often overlooked, role that science fiction plays in inspiring many of the world’s space engineers and scientists.

When you think of it, there is a lot of revenue being generated by space outside the realm of the space industry, with blockbusters like Star Wars, Iron Man, The Matrix, and The Martian. Not to mention, the TV show and movie, Star Trek. At Commerce, we believe that the future of space is overwhelmingly commercial. 

Commercial space firms today are deploying well-known concepts from other industries, such as reusability, standardization, and continuous learning. They are also able to leverage business models and technologies from other areas like artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing, and cloud computing. 

Innovation is accelerating in every aspect of the space economy, and partnerships will be key. This is why the Trump Administration decided to emphasize space as a key element of the Administration’s pro-growth business policies. While private funding for space companies reached an all-time high in 2018 and are on pace to exceed that in 2019, government funding also plays an important role in new space initiative.

We need to improve the public awareness of the impact space has on our daily lives. The most obvious example is the impact of improved weather forecasting, which is advancing due to improvements in sensors and high-speed data processing. NOAA just updated its global weather forecasting model to improve accuracy of the one-to-two day, and the three-to-seven-day forecasts. And there were three new NOAA satellites onboard the SpaceX Falcon Heavy that were successfully placed in orbit around the equator. These are projected to improve forecasts by up to four days.

GPS is another space application that is driving economic growth and affects our daily lives—touching upon everything to finding directions to finding our golf balls. The National Institute of Standards and Technology and RTI International just released a study describing $1.4 trillion in economic benefits from GPS for 10 major U.S. industries, including agriculture, electricity, maritime, oil and gas, telecom, and location-based services. The same study estimates that the U.S. economy would lose $1 billion per day if there was an outage to the GPS system.

I know that Administrator Bridenstine will talk to you next about the role of international cooperation in the Gateway program, along with our pursuit of a permanent presence on the Moon and in low-earth orbit. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing, it is fitting that the Artemis mission, named after Apollo’s twin will get Americans back to the moon by 2024, and as Administrator Bridenstine promised, will include the goal of landing the first woman astronaut on the Moon.

Recently, the Department of Commerce took on the responsibilities to create a new civil space agency to provide notification of potentially damaging space debris to commercial satellite operators worldwide within five years. The Trump Administration’s premise was that commercially developed sensors and data processing technologies will complement space safety activities within DoD, NASA, State, and other agencies of the U.S. government.

Commerce will build an open architecture data repository of space debris and believe that commercial partners will play a key role the effort.  We are already planning on how allied commercial organizations will participate in this architecture. Our collective efforts will create the best possible mitigation of high-impact collisions, and help reduce the creation of new debris.

Over the next two days, please hold detailed discussions about what’s working, and the specific tasks and projects that require international collaboration. The contacts you make, the partnerships and friendships you create over the next two days will affect many people’s lives. Every nation and millions of future workers will benefit from the work you are doing together.

On behalf of Secretary Ross, one of the biggest space enthusiasts I know, thank you all, again, for being here at the dawn of the new space age. The Commerce Department looks forward to helping you make the projects and proposals discussed here come to fruition.