Earlier today, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) delivered the keynote address at the 21st annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference. Chairman Shuster’s remarks, as prepared, follow:
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA)
Remarks at the 21st annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference
February 7, 2018
Thank you very much – it’s a pleasure to be here today. This is an exciting time for commercial space transportation and the transportation industry as a whole.
Throughout our Nation’s history, the introduction of new transportation systems has strengthened our people and our society.
Transportation has also spurred American innovation and the American entrepreneurial spirit.
Transportation is the glue that binds us together as a nation and as a people.
History provides numerous examples of incredible American leadership and ingenuity in transportation: the Erie Canal, the Panama Canal, the Transcontinental Railroad, the Interstate Highway System, and the invention of modern flight.
That ingenuity and determination have propelled our Nation to greater and greater heights, creating tens of millions of jobs and facilitating trillions of dollars in economic activity.
A strong infrastructure means a strong America – an America that is competitive globally, and fosters local and regional economic development.
During this Congress, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has focused on Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America.
I can think of nothing more “21st century” than commercial space transportation and the infrastructure necessary to support it.
Space travel has always captivated the minds of America and we have been leaders in the field. We landed the first humans on the moon, sent the Voyager probe beyond our solar system and placed a rover on Mars. These were all great accomplishments, but they were accomplishments spearheaded by the Federal government.
But times have changed since the Moon Landing.
Yesterday we watched a private company launch the largest rocket since the Saturn V into orbit – marking a new era in space transportation. This is just one example of the exciting milestones your industry is marking every month, and highlights how rapid commercial space transportation is evolving. This was once a niche industry reliant on government payloads – now it’s becoming a major driver of private economic growth with a diverse list of start-ups looking to enter the marketplace.
You are one of the newest modes of transportation, and you represent the leading edge of American innovation and leadership in the aerospace and technology industries.
The commercial space industry has grown from zero launches just a few years ago to 18 licensed launches last year, and still more expected this year. Your industry has grown in reputation and size at a rapid pace to where government and industry are paying billions of dollars to transport cargo into space every year.
According to the Space Foundation, the global space economy in 2015 totaled $323 billion, with commercial systems and infrastructure accounting for 76 percent of that total. Further, according to the FAA, the potential for commercial space transportation to unleash new opportunities for industry has enabled $208 billion in economic activity.
These statistics don’t include the next giant leap forward in commercial space – the safe transportation of passengers beyond the atmosphere. This was once considered a dream, but it can now be measured as being months, rather than years away.
Each of your launches travel through the National Airspace System and require coordination and cooperation with the FAA’s air traffic controllers and other users of the airspace. The infrastructure to support launches and reentries by a wide variety of vehicles is springing up across the country at traditional airports, as well as dedicated commercial spaceports.
The ways in which your industry can change the transportation of people and goods by air are limited only by human imagination.
This is no longer the realm of research projects or science fiction. The era of commercial transportation to, from, and within space has arrived.
We are committed to supporting this growing industry, and I can assure you that the Committee will be working to maintain American leadership in the field for decades to come.
As you know, there are serious issues facing the commercial space transportation industry, including: regulation streamlining and reform, the operation of space support vehicles, the authorization of non-traditional space operations, and the future of space situational awareness and space traffic management.
We won’t shy away from making the tough decisions necessary to strengthen the American commercial space transportation system and ensure our aerospace industry’s global competitiveness.
We look forward to the regulatory reform recommendations under development by the National Space Council, in collaboration with the regulatory agencies.
We stand ready to consider any legislative proposal to streamline these processes.
It is clear that as the rate of launches increases, the FAA needs to do a better job at keeping pace.
Doubling the annual number of launches or cutting the launch license processing time in half cannot mean a doubling of budgetary resources.
While the agency hasn’t missed a statutory deadline for issuing a launch license yet, the FAA must prioritize its regulatory reform efforts and ensure that industry success isn’t hindered by bureaucratic delays.
I’ll also note the ongoing discussions over the appropriate placement of the Office of Commercial Space Transportation, and whether it should remain with the FAA or be elevated to report directly to the Secretary of Transportation.
While the industry and Congress have not reached consensus on this issue, this debate should not distract us from efforts to improve the launch licensing process and reform commercial space transportation regulation using all available tools.
To that end, I support ongoing administrative efforts to grant commercial space transportation rulemakings the same expedited processes and procedures as other aviation rulemaking committees -- and we will follow up with statutory changes if necessary.
This will further integrate the commercial space transportation industry into the community of airspace users and ensure that Federal aviation regulations meet the needs of the industry.
As we enter the second session of this Congress, we have the opportunity to ensure the 21st century is an era of continued American leadership in commercial space transportation.
I encourage you to reach out to the Transportation Committee and its staff to bring us ideas that will move your industry forward.
It’s worth repeating that just a few years ago, there were no commercial space launches from the United States, and it looked as though we would fall behind our global competitors. Now, our Nation leads the world in commercial space launches.
This was not a preordained outcome. These successes were made possible through the hard work, determination, and sacrifice of thousands of scientists, engineers, analysts, technicians, inspectors, and policymakers.
I believe the talent, energy, and commitment of those men and women, including all of you, will ensure American leadership continues in the 21st century and beyond.