Blog

04.20.2018

SpaceView: Advancing U.S. Leadership in Space

By: Howard Lance, Maxar Technologies President and CEO


Read Time: 4 minutes

On Monday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence addressed the 34th annual Space Symposium in Colorado, making his third space policy speech since becoming the Chairman of the newly reestablished National Space Council last June. Under Vice President Pence’s stewardship, the National Space Council has advanced initiatives that will have a lasting, positive impact on the space domain, and consequently, life on Earth.

Vice President Pence remarks at Space Symposium


First and foremost is the administration’s commitment to human space exploration. Space Policy Directive 1, signed by President Trump in December, will send American astronauts back to the Moon and then onto Mars and beyond. Vice President Pence noted that international allies and private industry will play key roles in these missions, starting with the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G), which will serve as a scientific outpost, resupply center and fueling depot for future deep space missions.

Maxar Technologies is supporting the Gateway in a variety of ways. Our SSL business is completing a study for NASA to design the power propulsion element that leverages our commercial mindset and successful track record in solar electric propulsion. In partnership with NanoRacks and United Launch Alliance, SSL is also working to convert rocket upper stages into affordable and robust habitats for LOP-G and the International Space Station. Maxar’s MDA business is also eager to contribute to LOP-G and is working under contract with the Canadian Space Agency to develop the robotic arm for deep space exploration missions, based on our experience building the Canadarm for the Space Shuttles and the Canadarm2 plus Dextre, currently in service on the International Space Station.

Another key priority the National Space Council has worked to address is to reform outdated regulations that have hampered the U.S. commercial space industry. These recommendations will allow the Commerce and Transportation departments to modernize their regulatory systems and processes, which will “empower America’s burgeoning commercial launch industry and innovative space companies to unlock new opportunities, new technologies and new sources of prosperity without the present barriers imposed by cumbersome and duplicative regulatory structures,” Vice President Pence said.

The Vice President is absolutely right about this. Maxar’s DigitalGlobe business is the global leader in commercial satellite imagery, but it is hamstrung by regulations that were constructed more than two decades ago. As a result, DigitalGlobe can’t sell some of its most advanced capabilities in the commercial market, and approval for licenses to deploy new capabilities can take months or years, creating uncertainty and stifling innovation. The National Space Council’s proposed reforms, combined with pending congressional legislation, will go a long way to improve U.S. competitiveness.

Finally, I am tremendously excited by the Vice President’s announcement that the National Space Council will seek to address the challenges posed by our increasingly congested space environment by implementing the nation’s first comprehensive space traffic management policy. Space-based capabilities are fundamental to so many aspects of our modern lives, from the ridesharing and mapping apps that we use every day, to communications that connect the most remote parts of the world and enable our response to natural disasters and humanitarian crises. Preserving the space environment for future generations is of the utmost importance. With improved data sharing systems and safety standards, Maxar will be able to operate its own satellites more safely, and our satellite servicing capabilities can help extend the lives of other satellites and deorbit them safely.

It’s remarkable to see what the new National Space Council has been able to achieve in just its first 10 months. As CEO of a company at the nexus of the new space economy, and as an American, I applaud these efforts and look forward to our continued contribution and acceleration of commercial innovation that is already underway at Maxar for the benefit of mankind.

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