Jeffrey Manber’s Remarks before the National Space Council
Verbal Remarks before the National Space Council
February 21, 2018
For 30 years, I have worked to make space ‘just another place to do business.’ My inspiration, in large part, derives from having worked under Ronald Reagan’s Commerce Secretary, Malcom Baldrige, who passionately believed we should unleash the imagination of the private sector as part of our space exploration efforts.
I started my company NanoRacks 8 years ago. We were the first company to own and market our own research services on the Space Station. The first to commercially deploy small satellites. As of today, we have launched over 600 payloads from customers in over 30 countries. Our commercial customers range from the US Government to small satellite operators to middle and high schools via our educational partner, DreamUp. All of our customers are commercial, whether the USG procures our services, or a high school holds a bake sale, we’re a normal business which just happens to operate on the International Space Station.
I might add, Mr. Vice President, we’re proud to have launched four high school experiments from Crown Point and Highland, Indiana.
Now, please allow me several observations:
First, kudos to the Administration for beginning the debate today on the transition from ISS to the era of private space stations. The debate has been skewed in headlines, but I believe you are raising the correct questions: How can NASA most effectively leverage the taxpayer investment in ISS? Can commercial industry safely and cost-effectively operate the ISS and other commercial platforms? It’s not a black and white end to US government support of ISS, but how the government will no longer serve as a landlord, but as a tenant.
Second, NASA today is supportive of commercial space companies and private initiatives relative to these endeavors, but there are ways NASA can improve its relationship with the private sector, especially in changing its insistence on competition innovative ideas that use NASA resources.
Finally, as I look overseas, the United States cannot simply ignore China’s commercial space ambitions. China is quietly developing a robust commercial space industry. I say quietly because Americans are blinded by our own regulations from participation.
Large Chinese companies are creating commercial launch efforts while young Chinese entrepreneurs are raising funds from Silicon Valley to Hong Kong. On a governmental level, the European Space Agency has astronauts training to visit the planned Chinese space station. But
the United States is barred. NanoRacks and others are limited on what we can sell in this marketplace.
Avoiding this emerging marketplace, albeit due to justified concerns over technology transfer and other legitimate challenges, is not the American global leadership that we strive to achieve.
Now, while my time today is brief, I urge us to negotiate a stern but fair agreement with China and allow U.S. businesses to do what we do best: innovate and compete better than anyone else.
Mr. Vice President, and everyone here today, I am thrilled that the Administration is turning a focus on commercial industry as part of America’s leadership in space. Through the American-style commercial pathway, we will continue to inspire the next generation of space explorers, so that one day soon, those students in Crown Point, Indiana will be standing in front of the next Space Council discussing the United States commercial lunar base.