Today’s Tidbits: May 8, 2019

Today’s Tidbits: May 8, 2019

Here are’s tidbits for May 8, 2019:  Senate committee hears about commercial launches and the National Airspace, ExIm Bank nominees confirmed, SIA issues new satellite report. Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Senate Committee Hears About Commercial Launches and the National Airspace

Wayne Monteith, FAA Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation. Senate Commerce Committee hearing screengrab, May 8, 2019.

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held a hearing today on “New Entrants in the National Airspace” which is getting a little crowded with drones and an increasing number of orbital and suborbital space launches in addition to all the airplanes that fly through it every day. Managing the National Airspace System (NAS) so all users can operate safely is getting increasingly difficult.

It was a brief hearing because the Senators were needed on the floor for votes (including for the ExIm Bank nominees discussed below).  Their interest was focused more on drones than commercial space, but Wayne Monteith, the new head of the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) and Eric Stallmer, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF), provided their input.

Monteith explained that the FAA is developing a new software tool, Space Data Integrator (SDI), so the FAA does not have to close airspace around launch and reentry sites for as long as it does now every time one of those is scheduled.  He said it would reduce the time from 14-20 minutes to less than a minute.  He also gave an update on streamlining and modernizing commercial launch and reentry regulations as required by the Trump Administration’s Space Policy Directive-2.  FAA/AST is awaiting comments on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that was issued last month.  The key is to have the “right regulations, at the right scope, at the right time” and avoid over regulation, which is “the worst thing.” He also mentioned Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao’s directive that FAA/AST create an Office of Spaceports (which actually was required by Congress in last year’s FAA Reauthorization Act) and reorganize itself to be more efficient.

Eric Stallmer, President, Commercial Spaceflight Federation, at Senate Commerce hearing May 8, 2019. Screengrab.

Stallmer pointed out that while the increase in orbital and suborbital commercial launches and reentries (32 and 14 last year, respectively) is great news for the industry, it is tiny compared to the 15.5 million airplane flights that transit the NAS each year.  He echoed Monteith’s comments about how development of the SDI will reduce the amount of time the airspace must be closed.  He co-chairs the FAA’s Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) and its goal is to “integrate and optimize” use of the NAS by aviation and space, not cut back on either’s growth.  CSF’s goal is to get the FAA to “adapt, move and innovate” quickly to keep up with NAS users.

We live tweeted the hearing.  Check our Twitter feed (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more tidbits.

Export-Import Bank Nominees Confirmed

At long last, today the Senate confirmed three nominees to the Export-Import Bank:  Kimberly Reed to be President, and Spencer Bachus III and Judith Pryor to be Board members.  They will join Jeffrey Gerrish, the chairman and president (acting) of the Bank, who has been its only official since last year. [UPDATE: Reed was sworn in on May 9.  Gerrish no longer is listed on the website so his acting appointment apparently ended when Reed’s began.  No announcement re Bachus and Pryor as of noon May 10.]

The Bank provides loans to overseas customers that want to buy U.S.-made products, like communications satellites.  The ExIm Bank’s very existence is strongly opposed by some who argue it is corporate welfare.  Others insist the ExIm Bank is essential to ensure American companies are competitive globally since many other countries have no qualms about extending such loans.

The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) both issued statements praising the long-awaited confirmations and urging Congress to reauthorize the Bank’s existence, which expires on September 30.

Today’s confirmation of Kimberley A. Reed as President, and Spencer Bachus III and Judith DelZoppo Pryor as Members of the Export-Import Bank’s Board of Directors, is a long-awaited step towards putting the Bank back in the business of supporting American exporters of all sizes. … The next step to send a clear signal that America is serious about competing in the global marketplace is for Congress to begin work on a long-term authorization for the Bank. The Bank’s current authorization expires at the end of the fiscal year, and American exporters will once again be fighting an uphill battle if Congress fails to pass a reauthorization bill.  — Eric Fanning, AIA []

“For more than three years AIAA has called on Congress to restore the export credit agency to full functionality. The Senate’s action today is welcome news to the aerospace industry and to all American manufacturers selling products internationally. We ask that Congress act to reauthorize the bank so it can continue to protect the competitiveness of our domestic aerospace and manufacturing sectors.”  — Dan Dumbacher, AIAA []

The ExIm Bank needs a quorum of three to approve loans over $10 million and has not had a quorum since 2015.  According to its 2018 annual report, it has a backlog of about $40 billion in pending transactions.  As soon as Reed, Bachus and Pryor are sworn in, they can get down to work and they would be well advised to hurry and get as much done as possible before September 30 just in case Congress does not act on the reauthorization.

Reauthorization of the Bank, which was created in 1934,  used to be routine, but it ran into a buzzsaw last time and ended up closing down for several months.

Meanwhile, President Trump has nominated Paul Shmotolokha to be First Vice President of the Bank.  If confirmed, that would restore the Board to its usual complement of 5 members.

SIA’s State of Satellite Industry 2019

The Satellite Industry Association (SIA) issued its 22nd annual “State of the Satellite Industry” report today.  The report identifies revenue increases in satellite manufacturing (up 26 percent), ground equipment (up 5 percent), and satellite launch services (up 34 percent). However, there was a slight decrease (1.7 percent) in satellite services, the largest industry segment, due to the satellite TV and transponder leasing markets.

SIA President Tom Stroup warned that policy-makers have work to do to keep the good news coming.

“If America is to lead and fully capitalize on the opportunity that the new space age represents, it is imperative that lawmakers and government leaders continue to recognize the importance of satellites plus the need to protect the satellite spectrum resources which are critical for the industry to thrive. Only then can the commercial satellite industry deliver the vital high speed, highly reliable, ubiquitous communications, broadband, broadcast, radio, navigation, tracking, weather data, imaging and remote sensing services demanded by Americans at home and around the globe.” — Tom Stroup


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