September 13, 2023


“This is what I believe is the beginning of a true golden era for commercial space. And that has significant implications for us all going forward.” 

Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, the Chief of Space Operations for the United States Space Force, made that comment during a midday speech on the second day of the Global Aerospace Summit – a sentiment that was echoed and celebrated by those who spoke before and after him. 

Unlike the first day of the Summit, with the theme of commercial aviation, Wednesday's agenda focused on opportunities and advancement in space. Key themes included partnerships among public and private entities, and commercial economy in space. Some discussions focused, for example, on how national security, civil, and commercial space agencies are collaborating with commercial providers to meet strategic objectives and plan for future missions. Others touched on transportation and habitation in space. 

“The domain is now congested and more contested than at any point in our history,” Saltzman said. “This historic growth of activity in the space domain was the genesis for the Space Force, a military service specifically focused on addressing the challenges and opportunities in the space domain. We were created for this new space era, an era increasingly driven by great power competition.” 

“There is no question the viability of our efforts in space also rests on our ability to build a coalition and strengthen a rules-based international order in space. So as we continue to prepare for great power competition, we still must have we still have much to do to normalize space operations, tactics, techniques, procedures, standards, just as we have in the other domains.” 

U.S.: ‘The Flag of Choice in the Industry’ 

Don Graves, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, discussed what the U.S. must do to maintain its edge in the space economy, including working with international partners.  

He also said it is incumbent upon the government to support the commercial space industry if the U.S. is “to be the flag of choice in the industry.” 

“We are continuing to host commercial dialogues, and these are opportunities for us, working with our partners across government, to drive engagement and make sure that again, the U.S. is at the table and American industries at the table in every sector.”   

Collaborating in Space 

Former astronaut Peggy A. Whitson, Ph.D., the Director of Human Space Flight at Axiom Space, discussed the opportunities for different space stations, each with a different objective. Axiom, she said, "serves as a great transition to help open up that commercial market.” 

“I think space in the future is going to be much more collaborative with different companies doing different aspects of the missions.” 

 She also noted the expense of working on and in space, “but we can make it happen easier if we add in commercial components where we are trying to reduce costs.” 

Moon Infrastructure Requires Collaboration 

Leaders in the space sector discuss cislunar space infrastructure.
Leaders in the space sector discuss cislunar space infrastructure.

A panel of leaders in the space sector discussed cislunar space infrastructure and what it would take to establish a long-term presence on the moon. The common theme? “Profound collaboration amongst the different industries, governments, and commercial entities amongst nations,” said Ron J. Garan Jr., CEO, iSpace Technologies U.S. "We need to as a human species make the decision that we’re going to do this and need long-term strategic planning.” 

Commercial markets taking shape on the moon include molecules, mining, tourism (the “human experience”), and research and development. 

Collins Mission Systems has designed a next-generation space suit with more than 18,000 parts that will be rented to NASA. 

“The problem is the same: How do we keep people safe and alive in space?” asked Bruce Brown, Vice President of Business Development at Collins Mission Systems.  

Dennis Paul, Senior Project Leader, Aerospace Corp., noted the vastness of work in the area. “Space is no longer special,” he said. “It’s hard, but it’s not special.”  

Sen. Cruz: Space is Bipartisan 

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, spoke at the Summit about national security and the changing nature of globalization. 

Cruz cited his home state’s deep connections to the space industry as he spoke and stressed the need for continued cooperation to ensure success, noting that space has the unique ability to unite. 

“Look, this is a time of partisan division,” he said. “Everyone knows that. We have partisan bickering over virtually everything including what time of day it is and what to have for lunch.... But it is a testament to the bipartisan cooperation space enjoys that in this time of division.” 

Cruz also praised the job-creating spirit of the aerospace sector. 

“[B]y and large, they don't come from bureaucrats in Washington. They come from the men and women in this room. They come from the private sector, they come from small businesses, they come from entrepreneurs putting capital at risk to meet it.” 

An Orbiting Commercial Space Station 

Tom Vice, CEO of Sierra Space, discussed his company’s work in building a next-generation orbiting space station – a commercial one. He said the development and operation would require a global policy framework. 

“Part of what we [Sierra] do in Washington, D.C., is to make sure that the senators, people in Congress, the administration, NASA, State Department, Commerce, Defense, really understand that you must lead the way in the commercialization of low Earth orbit,” Vice said.  

“The U.S. must lead the way in terms of bringing international cooperation as we transition from NASA on ISS to private space industries, operating platforms in space that are focused on the next generation products.” 

Safe Telecommunications on Earth 

Jessica Rosenworcel, Chair of the Federal Communications Commission, talked about what the growth in the space economy looks like at her agency. 

“Right now at the FCC, we have applications for more than 56,000 satellites,” she said. “But it's more than twice the number of applications we had just four years ago.” 

She said the FCC is working on setting up safe telecommunications across the globe, with space communication technolgoy supporting “some of the most vital communications here on Earth.” 

“It's important to remember that if we do this right, as policymakers, industry leaders, and innovators, we're not just boosting a job, but creating industry. We are unlocking advances that have the power to make us safer in crisis and stronger in day-to-day life. So that's how I think about space-based innovation.”  

She said the FCC launched its space bureau in five months. “And today it's up and running. It's designed to support the United States leadership in the space economy, promote long term technical capacity to address satellite matters, and improve coordination with other agencies authorities here domestically and around the globe.” 

Artemis and the Moon 

Artemis Mission Manager Mike Sarafin delivered an update on NASA’s program to return astronauts to the moon. 

“Our ability to leverage not only our commercial partnerships and their contributions but also our international partnerships moving forward make [Artemis] fundamentally different than Apollo,” he said. 

“We are going to a region of the moon that hasn’t been explored by humans before and that allows us new scientific opportunities. It allows us to demonstrate national posture and to partner with friendly nations and also to advance technology with our commercial and industry partners.”