We have sympathy from our colleagues at Virgin Galactic. Last week I met with Virgin employees who were here from Mojave Air and Space Port. As the press reported, Virgin Galactic had an unveiling ceremony recently and released videos and photographs of Virgin SpaceShip the VSS Unity. The VSS Unity is being built by the Space Ship Company at Mojave Air and Space Port. There is ongoing interaction between members of the spaceport communities in launching the commercial human spaceflight business with our partners. There is no other place on the planet where two commercial spaceports are working on a joint endeavor. This is not why they feel sorry for us.
Our international partners have been in both California and New Mexico for at least two weeks. The election coverage is non-stop in the US, its top of the news every day they said. Our visitors talked about the dreaded 3 weeks of electioneering they are subjected to in the United Kingdom. As elections campaigns in the UK are publically funded and therefore short. Yet, after three weeks, they are glad when election season is over. We spend three weeks promoting Valentine’s Day. This is why they feel sorry for us.
Ted Cruz comes from Texas, our neighbor and a state with two FAA licensed spaceports, one private spaceport belonging to Blue Origin and one under development by SpaceX. Marco Rubio has our country’s largest launch complex in his state, Kennedy Space Center. Yet, we don’t hear a peep out of either one about the space economy, a $330 billion dollar per year business. I don’t expect Donald Trump to have an opinion on the space industry, it’s not controversial enough. Thank goodness.
Hillary has had Lori Garver advising her for many years on space. Ms. Garver has been to ISPCS many times. She is the former Deputy Administrator of NASA and now the General Manager of the Airline Pilots Association. She understands the inevitability of commercial human spaceflight. Now, NASA will allow its astronauts to train on commercial vehicles, possibly on Virgin’s space ship once it is licensed by the FAA.
What does everyone need to know about the space business, and for New Mexicans, the commercial space industry? Representative Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma), with a spaceport in his state, provided a keynote address to the Commercial Spaceflight Federation’s Executive Leadership Forum in Washington on February 25th. The commercial space industry holds enormous potential both as a tool of economic growth and a reliable provider of services to the government according to the Congressman. He cited the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, H.R, 2262, passed in the 114th Congress as a milestone that will enable the industry to innovate and increase access to space to humans for years to come. Bridenstine is a recognized leader on commercial space issues, along with Kevin McCarthy (R-California) who introduced this legislation. You may remember McCarthy, he was the most likely candidate for Speaker of the House until he decided he did not want to live the life of a politician. He chose to be a legislator first.
There are other congressional champions of this industry; fortunately members of our Congressional delegation are well informed on the value of commercial space. Senator Heinrich has been instrumental in supporting NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, the program that buys space on flights to space from Spaceport America on the UP Aerospace rocket. They average two flights a year. It is this program that has provided the Test Readiness Level 7 (TRL) necessary for an NMSU College of Engineering experiment to go to the National Lab on the International Space Station.
Senator Udall is on the Science, Commerce and Transportation committee, commercial space is an emerging transportation industry. Senator Udall has been a supporter of our FAA work with the Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation since its inception. He is on the Appropriations Committee in the Senate. NASA’s 2017 budget is $19 billion. Yet, they have helped catalyze the space economy by billions.
NASA has always commercialized its patented technologies. On March 9th, Dan Lockney, NASA’s Technology Transfer Program Executive is coming to New Mexico State University to meet with students and faculty. He will be at Corbett Center Senate Chambers from 11:00 am until 1:30 pm. You are welcome to come. There is no charge for this event. Dan is coming to help engage people to join the Space Race www.space-race.org. The founder Rosemarie Truman, worked with NASA to get ten patented technologies into the Space Race business start-up challenge. Rosemarie founded the Center for Advancing Innovation (CAI) whose mission is to accelerate and increase the volume of technology transfer, commercialization and entrepreneurship to make more research available to the world for educational and innovation purposes and improve the economy and positively impact world health. Think globally, but act locally. I like living here. Election season and all.