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Remarks by Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at the OneWeb Satellites/Airbus Ribbon Cutting Ceremony in Merritt Island, Fla.


Introduced by Tony Gingiss, Chief Executive Officer, OneWeb Satellite

Thank you, Tony, for that kind introduction. 

It’s great to be in Florida as the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing. Everyone here remembers it vividly but a majority of Americans alive today had not yet been born when it occurred, so it is especially important to make them aware of its significance. It is also an honor to share this podium with so many people dedicated to advancing U.S. space industry, especially Senator Rick Scott.

To Greg [Wyler], Adrian [Steckel], Jeff [Knittel], Tony [Gingiss], and the entire OneWeb Satellite leadership team, and your employees and partners, congratulations on this fabulous, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. I must say though the concept of ribbon cutting does seem a bit archaic. Next time let’s use 3D printed material and cut it with a laser. 

Your operation represents far more than a high-tech, automated, digital manufacturing plant with skilled workers and a global supply chain. It demonstrates your drive to do great and important things; to create new companies, new industries, new jobs, and hope for billions of people.

From President Trump and all of those in his administration, thank you for your dedication to these causes and, as a Floridian myself, for making Florida your home base for the volume production of satellites. We will do whatever we can to help you succeed. Not long ago after the Space Shuttle was retired, the Space Coast was turning into a Ghost Coast, with an exodus of talent, and worries that the space age was ending. 

We had a year with zero launches and became dependent on the Russians to give our astronauts a very expensive ride. Without launches, there would be little demand for space engineers, scientists, and the thousands of others required to maintain space flight and operations.

It didn’t take long for that to change. Just this past week, the Space Foundation estimated the 2018 global space reached $414 billion for the first time ever. Already in 2019, another $3 billion in private venture capital investment has come into new space, and businesses. This is 88% of the full year 2018 total so, it is running well ahead. 

Meanwhile Richard Branson is becoming the first publicly traded space company. Hopefully this will help the industry gain access to low cost public equity capital. Your new factory is a marvel to behold. Congratulations on the successful effort to raise $3.4 billion of capital for its construction, and on the start of production.

Your strategy of mass assembly of complex digital components from an array of vendors on dual production lines, is changing the economics of the satellite industry. And coupled with new private-sector launch vehicles, you are improving the prospects for billions of people to be connected to the Internet.

The growth of the commercial space industry is a major priority of the Trump Administration. We are lowering regulatory barriers to your operations. We have cut the processing time for remote sensing licenses in half and are accelerating launch approval timelines. We are assessing bad actors on the world stage to assure that technologies do good not harm. We are encouraging financial support for space businesses.

The Commerce Department is quickly implementing the space situational awareness and space traffic management directives in President Trump’s Space Policy Directive 3. Industry input has been essential to dealing with current space debris, and to avoid creating new debris, even as satellite constellations grow exponentially. Your industry will continue to address this problem in fundamentally innovative ways, including cloud computing, machine learning, and new approaches to alerting space operators. We are enthusiastic about technologies to track objects smaller than 10 centimeters in diameter. At 17,000 miles per hour even tiny objects can damage satellites, especially solar panels.

We especially commend OneWeb for your “Responsible Space” initiative and we look forward to learning more about how your satellites will self de-orbit as they near the end of their useful life. That is an elegant solution to part of the debris problem. 

This is an exciting time for the space industry, and we are all very fortunate to be part of it. I look forward to attending many more such events. And more importantly, to helping you grow in the United States.

Congratulations to all of you for your leadership and your dedication to improving the world! Your decision to stage an initial pilot program connecting one’s school in each of Alaska, Rwanda, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Ecuador, and Honduras will demonstrate to the world. The OneWeb goal of global connectivity of schools, bravo!