Political Will Can Accelerate Space Industry Progress

By | October 1, 2012 | Editor's Note, Government

I would like to start off by reflecting on the passing of U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong, who was not only a true icon of the space industry but of life in general. The entire Via Satellite team would like to pass on our condolences to his family.

We are now at the countdown stage to the next U.S. Presidential election. It really does not seem like four years have passed since Barack Obama became President of the United States. The editors of Via Satellite have been discussing what might happen to our industry if either President Obama or the Republican candidate Gov. Mitt Romney wins in November. Elections these days seem to be very tightly fought affairs and this one is no different.

From what I have seen, both candidates have been long on rhetoric, but short on concrete proposals in regards to space strategy, which isn’t wholly surprising. During the last four years, President Obama has resided over the privatization of national launch programs and reforms to U.S. export control regulations. Gov. Romney, as we all know, comes from a business background and in these times of commercial and government partnerships in space, it will be interesting to see whether his approach will sharply differ from the one taken by President Obama. At the moment, it is hard to see what a victory either way might mean to the space industry, and even whether there are sharp differences in their respective strategies.

There is no doubt that during the next four years the debt crisis that has enveloped nearly the entire world is unlikely to be quickly fixed. Creative solutions, particularly in the areas of milsatcom, will need to be addressed. Certainly, the U.S. presidential election is eagerly awaited on many levels and it could represent another turning point for our industry. One can only hope that better days lie ahead and that there is a political will to boost the industry.

That brings me to our second annual Hosted Payload Summit, which will be held in Washington, D.C., at the end of September, just a little more than a month before the presidential election. I find hosted payloads an intriguing topic in the sense that there always seems to be more talk than action. Arguments about the benefits of a hosted payload approach are spun out on a monthly basis, but to me, it would be good for the industry to see one or two significant contracts issued as a validation of the concept.

While the satellite industry bubbles along and generally performs as expected, the political influence can be absolutely crucial at times. You only have to look at Australia and its positive embrace of satellite both for national broadband and milsatcom solutions to see what an influence it can have on our industry. I would argue that the Australian government truly understands satellite. The United Kingdom is another country where the space industry provides a feel good factor, as growth outpaces the economy as a whole. It has been a source of job creation and revenue creation at a time when the country most needs it.

You could argue that satellite broadband solutions in Europe have not been embraced at the political level with as much enthusiasm. Sure, you hear the rhetoric that “satellite is important,” but sometimes the words feel a little empty. No politician worth their salt is ever going to offer anything other than positive sound bytes about our industry, but we need to look beyond the surface to see whether anything actually comes of them.

In this issue, we cast an eye forward to WRC-2015, where the satellite industry will have to fight tooth and nail once again to hang on to valuable spectrum. There are many political battles ahead, but there is little doubt that the satellite industry can offer a lot to any given country. It just sometimes needs politicians to see the big picture.

On a final note, we say goodbye to one of our regular columnists, Gerry Oberst, who is taking up a position at SES. We have enjoyed working with Gerry for almost two decades, and his ability to translate complex regulatory issues into plain English for people like me has been especially valuable. Gerry has been a highly valued contributor to Via Satellite, and we wish him every success in his new role at SES.

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