74 – Transcript of the October 5, 2017 meeting of the National Space Council

Page 4: Panel 2

  • Gwynne Shotwell: President, SpaceX
  • Bob Smith: CEO, Blue Origin
  • Fatih Ozmen: CEO, Sierra Nevada Corporation

32. VICE PRESIDENT PENCE [55:36]: That as our next panel steps to the stage, the panelists before us represent some new and exciting companies that are pushing the bounds of what we thought was possible; even shaking things up a little bit in aerospace markets globally, to say the least. Our first panelists will be Ms. Gwynne Shotwell, the president of SpaceX. Our second panelist will be Mr. Bob Smith, the CEO of Blue Origin. Our final panelist will be Fatih Ozmen, CEO of Sierra Nevada Corporation. Before we recognize Ms. Shotwell, would you join me in welcoming this panel back to the National Space Council. Thank you all. Ms. Shotwell, you’re recognized.

33. GWYNNE SHOTWELL [56:25]: A technologist here. Mr. Vice President and distinguished members of the council, I’m honored to be here today in this extraordinary venue to represent more than 6,000 men and women of SpaceX who work tirelessly each day to provide NASA, the Department of Defense, and our commercial customers with critical launches to space. We are driven by a deep sense of mission to revolutionize space technologies and to help this nation and the world become a truly spacefaring civilization.

Now is the time for swift and bold action. A permanent presence on the Moon and American boots on the surface of Mars are not impossible and they are not long-term goals. We can achieve rapid progress if we undertake concerted efforts that optimize America’s greatest strengths, ingenuity, innovation, and entrepreneurialism. America is out-innovating the rest of the world in space launch. So far this year, SpaceX has successfully conducted 13 launches—more than any other nation. And, we have also repeatedly demonstrated the ability to refly previously flown rockets for commercial customers. We have another one of those missions upcoming in a week. This is a market—commercial space launch—that the United States used to dominate in the 90s. We lost it in the 2000s and we have been bringing that back to the United States along with the thousands of jobs that follow it. SpaceX is bringing this critical market back and we are pleased to be doing so. Also, as recently announced by my boss, Mr. Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, we also plan to move forward rapidly with a program—a commercial program—for an American rocket and a spaceship capable of carrying large numbers of humans to Mars as well as the surface of the Moon.

Though I sit on the commercial space panel today, and as I’ve mentioned, we are a key player both in the civil and the national security space markets. Earlier this year, we carried the National Reconnaissance Office L-76 mission to orbit. Last month, we successfully launched the Air Force’s X-37B into orbit. Next year, we will have the profound honor of carrying U.S. astronauts into space on an American rocket for the first time since 2011.

New rocket, spacecraft, and plans for space commerce abound. In short, there is a renaissance underway right now in space. Against this background, we urged the council to undertake a unified effort across the federal space enterprise. You have the opportunity to help accelerate low-earth orbit and deep-space efforts by employing public-private partnerships to yield speedy and efficient results and by implementing meaningful regulatory reforms. Overall, the council can work to alter and improve procurement agility and flexibility so that the government can behave more like a commercial buyer where applicable.

If we want to achieve rapid progress in space, the U.S. government must remove bureaucratic practices that run counter to innovation and speed. We urge the council to look back to the NASA commercial orbital transportation services program or COTS for important lessons learned about the effectiveness of public-private partnerships and how to carry them out. The firm, fixed price, pay for performance, competitive principles embodied in the COTS programs allowed NASA to rapidly yield two new spacecraft and two new rockets capable of carrying cargo to the International Space Station. These lessons should be applied to America’s space program beyond low-earth orbit, including a new competitive public-private partnership modeled on a COTS approach for deep space exploration. This would augment budgets with private capital, complement existing technologies that are being pursued, and accelerate technologies for new destinations in space, including deep space communications networks and also landers on the Moon and Mars.

The council can also establish directives that achieve rapid government adoption of new commercial capabilities like reusable launch vehicles. Rapid and complete reusability is the next great advancement for spaceflight and will fundamentally alter the economics and access to space.

Finally, the council could commit to reforming, modernizing, and streamlining federal regulations governing space launch. Regulations written decades ago must updated to keep pace with the new technologies and the high cadence of launch from the United States if we want a strong space launch industry here at home. Mr. Vice President and members of the council, thank you so much for this invitation and I look forward to your questions.

34. VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Thank you very much, Gwynne. Great comments. We appreciate it and look forward to the dialogue that will follow. Bob Smith is CEO of Blue Origin and is recognized and welcome to the National Space Council

35. BOB SMITH [1:01:30]: Thank you, Mr. Vice President, members of the National Space Council. Thank you for the opportunity to speak before you today. At Blue Origin, our vision is to enable a future where millions of people are living and working in space. This vision was set forth by our founder, Jeff Bezos, who, as a five-year-old, watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the Moon. This event sparked his lifelong passion for space. This passion is what all of us at Blue Origin think about each and every day. I’m a child of the Apollo era, saw with my own eyes the immense progress we made then to accomplish things that were almost unthinkable at the time. I am proud now to be part of leading this organization forward and representing the commercial space industry’s desire to work with the government to see progress like this once again in my lifetime.

The traditional government-driven space enterprise gave the U.S. leadership in space over the past 60 years through the Apollo program, through the Space Shuttle program, the International Space Station, and our national security capabilities which are unrivaled by any other country. However, we believe the future of the United States leadership in space will build on these civil and national security accomplishments, and they will continue by driving economic activity, commercial innovation, and human spaceflight resulting in an economic expansion into space on the way to millions of people living and working in space.

The first step in making this happen is lowering the cost of access to space by building operationally reusable launch systems. Blue Origin is working on this today, designing reusability in from the beginning on all of our programs that will take people and payloads to the Earth orbit, the Moon, and beyond. We are investing significant private capital in our programs that are making great progress towards increasing access to space. Our New Shepherd vehicle will take scientific payloads and people into space where they will experience weightlessness and witness incredible views. New Shepard is named after the first American go to space, Alan Shepard, and launches from our facility in West Texas. The next launch of New Shepard will be later this year. The advances in reusability that we have developed with New Shepard are making their way into New Glenn, our orbital rocket that will launch from historic Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral, taking people and payloads to low-Earth orbit and beyond. New Glenn is named after the first American to orbit the earth, Senator John Glenn. Our massive factory at the Cape where we build new Glenn is on track to be completed by the end of the year.

We’ve also invested in building our own reusable engines to power our launch vehicles and to benefit the great air-launch industry. Our BE-3 engine, which launches New Shepard to space, is an amazing advancement in engine technology and has demonstrated remarkable throttleability and robustness of design. We will soon begin testing our BE-4 engine which will take New Glenn to space and is being developed in partnership with United Launch Alliance for the next generation vehicle, Vulcan, and will end America’s dependence on Russian engines. This has been accomplished with virtually all private money.

The opportunity before you is to further U.S. leadership in space by ensuring that the United States drives the coming economic expansion in space. This can only be done through public-private partnerships. For example, our New Glenn launch vehicle will be more capable than existing launch vehicles flying today and can be used not only for human spaceflight and other commercial missions but also for civil and national security payloads. Therefore, we are in early discussions with a national security community and NASA about how to certify New Glenn for their use.

We also believe strongly that it is time for America to return to the Moon. The Moon is a key step on the path to long-term exploration of the solar system and we have proposed the Blue Moon lunar lander concept as a low-cost cargo delivery system to enable NASA and commercial activities on the Moon. Blue Moon can be done within the next 5 years and we are willing to invest alongside NASA to make this happen. Such public/private partnerships allow the country to meet big objectives rapidly while also promoting more economic development and U.S. strategic leadership in space. Thank you for your time and I’m happy to answer your questions.

36. VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, thank you, Bob. Thank you for those thoughtful comments. I look forward to our dialogue with the panel. Mr. Fatih Ozmen of Sierra Nevada Corporation is recognized. Thank you for being here.

37. FATIH OZMEN [1:06:13]: Good morning. I’d like to echo my colleagues in thanking the Vice President and the council for the opportunity to address you today. Now is the time for bold action. I am Fatih Ozmen, CEO of Sierra Nevada Corporation. My wife, Eren Ozmen, my real boss who is also here sitting, is SNC’s president and we are the sole owners. SNC is a unique company. We bring the best of both worlds. A reliable government contractor that challenges the status quo with an entrepreneurial culture.

Eren and I are blessed to live the most amazing American dream. We came to Nevada from Turkey as graduate students in 1980s and have been proud U.S. citizens for almost 30 years. We have established an innovative business model. We invest our own capital and focus on agility, speed, and affordability. With that approach, SNC has grown from 20 employees into a multi-billion dollar business with over 3,000 people with facilities in 20 states. In addition to SNC’s core national security business, we have 25 years of experience and innovation in space from satellites to rocket engines and more. Our products have been part of 450 successful missions to space. Our Dream Chaser is the next generation space shuttle technology. This multi- mission spacecraft has been selected by NASA to service the International Space Station. Dream Chaser is the only commercial, low Earth orbit reusable lifting body vehicle. It can launch from many rockets. It can land on many commercial airports. It can do many missions including international ones like the one planned with the United Nations giving 84 member countries affordable access to space.

The council is critical to driving a unified strategy, policy, and vision to lead in space. I will encourage greater cooperation among the three recognized space communities—civil, commercial, and national security—to leverage their combined resources. For commercial space, we need to create an environment that promotes investment, managers risk, and creates opportunity. Specifically, I’ll ask the council to address the three following points.

First, infrastructure. Commercial space is booming. The U.S. should lead the effort and invest in the building essential infrastructure—the highways in space for a strong space economy. The right policies and regulations can provide oversight and accelerate capital to new initiatives creating jobs and markets with huge returns including new scientific discoveries.

Second, commercialization. The global commercial space market is valued at over $335 billion a year. The U.S. has a unique opportunity to establish a road map based on an open architecture framework that fosters competition and affordability. This will provide an integrated capability that can leverage and service civil, commercial, and national security and international partners and consortiums. Incentives are critical, as well, to stimulate the space economy and ensure U.S. global leadership. For example, like a free trade zone, the space economic zone could be created at the International Space Station and aboard US-flagged space vehicles.

Third, and final, continuation of the International Space Station. The U.S. should make the decision now to continue operating the ISS through the end of the next decade. This was a hard lesson-learned when we retired the Space Shuttle. The ISS is considered to be a stepping stone for exploration and we need to preserve it to open new doors into space and go to deep space.

In closing, let me address the future. This administration is focused on space. This will light a fire in our national imagination and inspire our children. After all, space is multi-generational and a bridge to bring cultures and worlds together. For Eren and me, our own mission statement reflects this focus: dream, innovate, inspire, and empower the next generation to transform humanity through technology and imagination.

I want to thank President Trump and Vice President Pence for reinstituting the National Space Council and reigniting the dream. We need this kind of bold action and we stand ready to help you bring speed and agility of space. Thank you, again, and I look forward to your questions.

38. VICE PRESIDENT PENCE [1:10:54]: Well, thank you all. Thank you all for your words. More importantly, thank you for your inspiring example of American ingenuity and creativity. I know we’re all moved and millions of Americans follow with great interest these companies and all that you’ve done and we’re honored to have you here. And, let me, the chair will ask a very quick question.

Gwynne, you talked about regulatory reform; Fatih, you talked about the kind of regulation that create infrastructure in space, a space highway; Bob, you reflected on the same, making sure that the U.S. drives economic expansion in space. Can anyone on the panel speak briefly to what we might focus on with regard to OMB, Commerce, Transportation in the area of regulatory reform? I believe the testimony was that we have not updated regulations with regard to space since the days of Apollo. And. Gwynne, since you raised the issue, can each of you speak to that and, then, I’ll go to the Secretary of Transportation.

39. GWYNNE SHOTWELL [1:12:19]: We actually have a detailed white paper with some recommended approaches. But, just to give a kind of a very top level, we are working well with the FAA to get our launches licensed. However, I think it requires heroics when you make any changes to those launch licenses; when you have to change a launch pad from 40 to 39A or back to 40, you have to basically apply for a new license. So, if we could look at the CFR right now and really streamline the licensing process to allow for a much more rapid cadence of launch. as we’re starting to see this year. and that will only continue to grow. So, we need to streamline the process; we need to shorten the timelines. It takes six months, then you reapply 90 days, 30 days, and, then, 15 days to file a flight plan. I think if the airline industry had to follow such regulations maybe they’d change faster. But, those kinds of things. The regulations are there but they definitely need to be streamlined in order to facilitate the very rapid cadence of launch.

40. BOB SMITH [1:13:20]: Well, I would just echo what Gwen largely said, but put a finer point on it. It really comes down to reusability. That is the difference when you have expendable launch capability, there are existing frameworks by which to handle that. But, once you get into reusability, now you’re into a different regulatory regime. And, so, we actually now have duplicative overlap between the United States Air Force and what we asked to see from the FAA. So, this is a good opportunity for actually to go change that regulatory environment because reusability will be the thing that actually changes the economics of getting to space and having millions of people working there.

41. FATIH OZMEN [1:14:09]: For your question for infrastructure, I think I was excited when I heard about the trillion-dollar infrastructure investment was promised. Just a fraction of that could be invested in space, as well the earth to build roads, bridges, and highways. But, you can envision to have a toll-free road, highway in space that we allow other people, many commercial companies creating jobs, going out there giving them access, lower the cost of access, which our colleagues are doing a great job in terms of inexpensive rockets, but additional infrastructure investment. If it is made, then, eventually it can charge a toll and it will be self-sustaining. So, I think there’s a lot of job creation potential here if we lean forward and lead and reusability will be key to lower the access. Space Shuttle is the best example sitting here, like our Dream Chaser, has been used over and over and I think that’s eventually going to be like airplanes, airlines carry people back and forth.

42. VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, thank you for that. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.

43. SECRETARY CHAO [1:15:20]: Hey, Gwynne. Great to see you. Thank you, Bob, and Fatih for your remarks as well. Gwynne, it was so interesting to visit your facilities out in Los Angeles. It was really like a visit to the future. You know, one of the most interesting potential applications of commercial space is this idea of flying passengers like to any city on earth in 30 minutes. That sounds like something, you know, that would completely, obviously, revolutionize long-distance transportation. So, can you share with us a little bit as to what the vision is and how this new future would look?

44. GWYNNE SHOTWELL [1:16:00]: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Last week Elon announced or basically gave an update on the Big Falcon Rocket program, Big Falcon Rocket and Big Falcon Spaceship. That program was meant to complement the existing launch vehicles suite that we have, which is Falcon 9, which is flying regularly now; Falcon Heavy which will start flying very shortly; and, then, the BFR system complements it and gets us through the full suite of national security space launch. It also enables much larger passenger carrying vehicles. The Dragon spacecraft, which we will fly shortly for crew, can carry up to seven people. For NASA, we’re flying four people. BFR is planned to fly hundreds of people both to low-Earth orbit. Our ultimate destination is Mars. But that system is being designed also to do kind of earth hops and those are some of the first tests that you’ll actually see with the Falcon spaceship.

45. VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Others on the panel to the overall theme.

46. FATIH OZMEN [1:17:02]: We had actually a contract from Far East country in terms of transporting from Indonesia to Puerto Rico. We did a study, several million dollars, and that’s a great possibility. It was taking about 45 minutes, a very short time. It’s expensive right now, but I think if you look into the future it will be affordable

47. VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Thank you. Madam Secretary, anything else? Well, good. Let me go to the Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross.

48. SECRETARY ROSS [1:17:56]: Commerce through NOAA operates 16 satellites; 11 for civil use, mostly weather and Earth mapping, and 5 for the Air Force and we’ve had a lot of partnerships with other countries and with some private sector. And I’ve been intrigued that in low gravity and no gravity environments, materials take on different properties from what they have here on Earth and I wonder is that an area that you think is ripe for commercialization or are there other segments of space that are more ripe so that we really can have public/private partnerships in meaningful dollars. Because so far the monies we’ve gotten really haven’t been big dollars in the partnership?

49. FATIH OZMEN [1:18:48]: Can I answer that? That’s a very exciting area because we have so many requests as part of our commercialization of the Dream Chaser program, outside of NASA, from pharmaceutical companies and building new materials in space, growing crystals that are not possible under earth conditions, but microgravity allows you to do that. So, there’s so many possible industrial potential including 3D printing in space that can allow you to do other things that you couldn’t do industrially on earth. So, it is a very exciting area that I believe it’s gonna be a big economic stimulus eventually.

50. BOB SMITH [1:19:27]: I would decide that if you look broadly within what the commercial activities are going to be, a continuation of what we’re doing today is very much what’s going to happen in the near term, so we’re gonna have observation satellites and communication satellite, that’s obviously going to be a key commercial customer. But the next one for Blue Origin is going to be space tourism. So, within the next 18 months we’re going to be launching humans into space and this won’t be astronauts, people that have been trained and specialized within an area, but these are going to be everyday citizens. So that that by itself is going to open up new ways of actually thinking about commerce into space, its going to be very exciting. Beyond that as we reduce the overall cost of getting to space, many of those things come to play such as space power, manufacturing in space, and using a lot of and exploiting a lot of the resources that are actually in space today. So, I think once we get through those first three levels and then we’re going to be able to actually go a little bit further and faster in terms of actually getting higher economic activity in that part.

51. GWYNNE SHOTWELL [1:20:28]: I do believe strongly that once you put people, massive amounts of people in low-earth orbit and beyond, the space enterprise will proliferate in ways that we can’t even imagine right now.

52. VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Very well. So, thank you. Mr. Secretary, if you have nothing else?

53. SECRETARY ROSS [1:20:46]: No, that was—just been shut off again. That was my big set of questions. The other one, though, was when we have international partnerships, how do you modulate it so that we make sure we keep control and we keep our leadership position as opposed to diluting it with these third parties.

54. GWYNNE SHOTWELL [1:21:11]: Secretary Tillerson has a very robust set of rules called ITAR, which prevents the proliferation of technology to countries outside the United States.

55. SECRETARY ROSS [1:21:22]: No, no, I didn’t mean the export of technology. We have BIS, so I’m well aware of limits on that. I was talking about if somebody pays very small rent to use a space on a space station and develops a product, how do we get some benefit out of it rather than it being the third party or the international partner.

56. FATIH OZMEN [1:21:46]: Well, I can try to answer that because we are right now in the process of working with United Nations, as I referred earlier. They sign an agreement with us to their mission in 2021 with 84 countries who cannot afford access to space. There are a lot of universities and experimentation lined up to be included in that mission. Everybody pays a small part to be a part of that. But, we are managing the architecture, we are managing working get on there, what’s going to be the outcome, IT management rights, and those are evolving but we have a tangible example right now right around the corner for that mission that’s going to be very interesting to prove that. But, I am excited because it’s U.S. leadership is our airplane, American spaceplane taking these nations and experiments in space. So, we will have more say on this then if you left let somebody else do like Chinese set up a space station free access and everybody goes there and we have no control so.

57. VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Recognize the Secretary of State and, then, a wrap-up question from the Director of OMB before we move on to our final panel. And I will say, Gwynne, that the Secretary of State would greatly welcome the enhanced transportation.

58. SECRETARY TILLERSON [1:23:10]: Thirty minutes to destinations around the world would be great. I’m all in. Kind of picking up on several comments around regulatory obstacles, but I want to go extend that a bit to international space law, and in terms of international space law, and how it, where it stands today; how it develops to accommodate how rapidly the use of space is changing from a commercial perspective; and, whether you are encountering obstacles from other countries in this space in this area of the development of international space law; and, how do we need to be thinking about that from our standpoint of diplomacy, foreign policy? Because obviously we want to create the conditions that allow our U.S. commercial entities to compete and to thrive, maintain that leadership position, regain that leadership position. So, kind of pushing this regulatory environment out in to now the space environment, are there areas of concern you can identify or obstacles you’re encountering that would be helpful for us to understand? Thank you.

59. GWYNNE SHOTWELL [1:24:28]: I believe with movement to go beyond Earth orbit, the FAA is undertaking or looking at ways of regulating that activity. And I wouldn’t say that we’ve had any issues yet, but know that these things are coming and that we will have to have a regulatory regime that does cover private missions to the Moon, private missions to Mars as well. So, my guess is we are kind of just starting that journey and we will be working, hopefully, very closely to make sure that the regulatory regime is there for us to do, our good work in a very rapid manner.

60. BOB SMITH [1:25:10]: I would decide that a regular review of what the export regime is between Department of Commerce, Department of State is always a good thing to go do. Those tend to get locked in for long periods of time as technology advances. Getting that update on a regular basis, I think it’s very valuable. Allows us to actually understand where that sharp line is because at Blue, we don’t tell everyone to take one big step away from that red line, but we want to make sure that we actually are doing whatever we can do to actually spur commerce.

Second thing to your question is really around the Outer Space Treaty. The Outer Space Treaty is, I think, a good framework that we have today. I think it supports what we want to go do in the future. I think there are details that have to be worked out on that, but that’s a discussion that I think we can go on as we get closer to some of those actually becoming an impediment.

61. FATIH OZMEN [1:25:58]: I will just add to that one quick point that it goes back to our leadership, U.S. leadership. I think right now, for instance, my company has ten international agreements with ESA, JAXA, everybody else to do this and a lot of them want to come here and we want to come to the United States to create jobs, so to allow them to be able to establish here and work jointly together to go to outer space. And I will say that we will leverage these agreements with ESA and Canadian Space Agency and JAXA and other ones to be able to keep our leadership and other countries we’ll have to follow. So, I think there is room for improvement there.

62. VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, and Director of Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney.

63. DIRECTOR MULVANEY [1:26:46]: Real briefly and I want to stay in the regulatory environment here for a second. What you folks may not be aware of is that the Vice President presided over a deregulatory day, just this week, so you’ve sort of come to the right group. And am fascinated by some of the stories already about how regs get in your way. I would encourage you, maybe this is more of a recommendation than a question because a lot of good questions have been asked, is that if you folks could please. The Office of Management and Budget, no one understands us, which we kind of like. One of the things we have within OMB is the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. So, we touched just about every reg or every de-reg effort within the government. We’re also involved in legislating regulatory change or legislative change. So, if you folks could be specifically identifying regs that are impeding innovation and impeding investment, specifically identifying changes in law, keeping in mind there are some things that we can do as an administration without going to Congress, but there are some things that we absolutely can and should go to Congress to help get some assistance with, so if you could identify for us specific examples, as you’ve done today on the difficulties of getting launch permission, difficulties getting flight plans filed, difficulties of duplication between various federal agencies—by the way that’s something we hear from a lot of different folks who work with government—we are actually in a position to help you in a fairly short order as far as government service goes. So, thank you for doing this. They don’t have a question, Mr. Vice President, but I would encourage them to get the Office of Management and Budget anything they can on where they need help on de-reg.

64. VICE PRESIDENT PENCE [1:28:18]: Well, thank you. Thank you, director, and we’ll reiterate the director’s request that you forward that information. With that, before we dismiss the panel, let me let me request Secretary Chao, Secretary Ross, as well as Director Mulvaney, we think based on this panel and some of the reflections, it is time for a full review of our regulatory framework for commercial space enterprise. Would each of you work with the executive secretary of the Council to pull together a plan to present to the President. The objective would be to remove barriers to American innovation by streamlining regulations, reducing bureaucratic hurdles, space companies, Elaine, Wilbur.

65. SECRETARY CHAO: Look forward to working with.

66. DIRECTOR MULVANEY: We’ve actually already asked since we’ve been sitting here for the SpaceX white paper on the dreg, so. It’s already started.

67. VICE PRESIDENT PENCE [1:29:18]: Wilbur, you’ll get your team working on that. I think our objective is let’s have something to review for our next council meeting. Yeah, well think urgency. So, I think if we put a 45-day window on that I think it would meet the chair’s expectation and the President’s expectation. So, thank you very much. So, thank you, Mr. Secretary and would everyone join me in thanking this panel for their outstanding presentations. Great job.

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