Heinrich Delivers Keynote At Commercial Space Symposium In Las Cruces

PHOTO: Senator Heinrich delivering a keynote address at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) in Las Cruces.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - U. S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) delivered a keynote address at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) on Thursday, October 16, 2014 in Las Cruces. Senator Heinrich's speech, "A New Frontier: From the Land of Enchantment to Space," focused on the considerable expertise New Mexico offers the commercial space industry and federal policies needed to advance the industry further.

Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery.

Thank you, everyone, for that warm welcome.

To Dr. Pat Hynes -- thank you for your leadership and effort in bringing engineers, scientists, business leaders, and entrepreneurs from the space industry together for this important forum. 

I’d like to recognize our panelists, speakers, and federal agencies represented here today – including NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration. 

I’m especially delighted to see student volunteers from New Mexico State University.

I don't have to tell this audience what an exciting moment this is for the commercial space industry. 

So I thought I’d give you my perspective on why I believe New Mexico -- with its history, resources, and talent -- is uniquely positioned to help propel the commercial space industry forward.

As many of you already know, New Mexico has deep roots in developing space technology and advocating exploration.

At a time when few Americans recognized the true potential of rocketry, physicist Robert Goddard moved to Roswell, less than 200 miles from here, to conduct his research in 1930. 

Meteorologists recommended Roswell for its good weather, relative isolation, and the communities respect for privacy, providing an ideal location for Goddard’s experiments.

While living in Roswell, Dr. Goddard developed the A, K, L, and P series of rocket systems.  Here he achieved numerous firsts:

  • The first use of vanes enabling exhaust to be used for guidance,
  • The first development and deployment of gyroscopic guidance systems on a rocket; and
  • The first flight in which a liquid fuel rocket broke the sound barrier. 

These technologies were such game changers that the Germans spied on Goddard, and Wernher von Braun used many of Goddard’s technologies in the V-2.

After surrendering to the U.S. Army in 1945 to avoid capture by German and Soviet forces, von Braun was brought to Ft. Bliss and White Sands Proving Ground.  There he taught rocketry to the Army, and tested V-2s further, forming the foundation for the design of America’s first ballistic missile -- the Redstone.

It was U.S. Senator Clinton P. Anderson of New Mexico, who advocated for the space program and space exploration.

Senator Anderson was instrumental in championing NASA as chairman of the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Science from 1963 to 1973 – the most active period of space exploration and the climax of the "Space Race" with the Soviet Union.

And following the successful missile launches at White Sands Missile Range in 1963, it was New Mexico Governor Jack Campbell who asked President John F. Kennedy to base the first inland aerospace port in our state. Campbell created a scientific advisory committee that year, whose first task was to prepare a report on NASA’s potential use of the White Sands area. 

As in the last century, New Mexico continues to play a significant role in both the public and private development of space technology because of its invaluable resources and unique capabilities.

Whether it’s the Space Vehicles Directorate and Space Test Program at Kirtland Air Force Base, Spaceport America, the Starfire Optical Range, White Sands Missile Range, NASA, or SpaceX testing, New Mexico helps provide the testing and operational grounds, assets, and experience to deliver the technologies our country relies on for our national defense, as well as the most adventurous commercial ventures in existence today. 

In December, NASA will flight test the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.  The Orion’s launch abort system was tested right here in New Mexico at White Sands Missile Range.

Virgin Galactic is preparing to launch travelers on SpaceShipTwo, opening the doors of space to civilians from Spaceport America. 

Some of our country’s most prestigious college and university programs in science and technology are here in New Mexico.

Continuing federal investment in these institutions is helping advance space research and exploration.

New Mexico State University’s Physical Science Laboratory has provided engineering support and managed NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility since 1987. Seven missions were launched this summer by the CSBF in Fort Sumner, NM. 

Also contributing to more affordable testing in space is NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, which provides access to microgravity and suborbital flights to test innovative technologies that advance or enable future missions, and uses tested payloads for scientific research, technology development, and education.  

The program has supported the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium’s Student Launch program, through which middle and high school and university students send their own experiments to space on a competitive basis.

Here in New Mexico, UP Aerospace and Virgin Galactic are providing regular opportunities for academic researchers, payload developers, and our future scientists and engineers to test their designs in microgravity.  Incidentally, UP Aerospace will conduct its 13th launch from Spaceport America this month.

During my time serving on the Commerce Committee, I was proud to introduce an amendment to the Senate’s NASA reauthorization bill to expand the development of payloads and flights in the Flight Opportunities Program.

In addition, New Mexico is home to several observatories that are doing exceptional work in astronomical research and space situational awareness like the Very Large Array, New Mexico Tech’s Magdalena Ridge Observatory, and the Very Large Baseline Array. 

NASA’s Earth science satellites are sending back data on our oceans, weather patterns, and climate, providing the United States with a comprehensive picture of the Earth – even if some of my colleagues choose to ignore the implications of that data.

Satellites help gather military intelligence and provide precision-guided munitions that minimize collateral damage and allow us to keep more of our service members out of harm’s way.   

Our intelligence community’s space assets keep us safe by detecting nuclear explosions and identifying missile launches, all while keeping a watchful eye on those who would do us harm. 

And in New Mexico, we house the antennae that download data from NASA and others’ satellites, telescopes, and the International Space Station before sharing that information with those who use it.

Through science, technology innovation, and vision, we’ve seen – firsthand – the evolution of the space industry from one that is fully sponsored by, used by, and controlled by government, to an industry in which governments are special customers and partners -- and we see a rapidly growing private commercial space transportation sector.                       

We know how incredibly fruitful and necessary partnerships between government agencies and policymakers, academia, and industry are.

These -- and the collective endeavors of those of you in this room -- are paving the way for the next wave of human space exploration.

Through collaboration, we can continue to drive innovation. The very character of our nation has been shaped by boundless wonder and curiosity. 

It is the desire to explore that launched John Glenn into orbit, landed a man on the moon, launched the Hubble Telescope, and sent the Curiosity Rover to Mars.

Designing, building, and launching rockets carrying sophisticated satellites into very precise locations hundreds if not thousands of miles into outer space, is sheer rocket science, and we should always be proud that humankind is able to do such things.

Federal investments in basic research help to support those who take big risks to develop game-changing technologies.

And those investments have paid off over and over again.

As we experience the dawn of the new era of commercial space travel, I’m here to tell you that New Mexico is positioned to be a leading partner.

After successful exchange of cargo with the International Space Station by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Dragon, NASA is moving forward with the Commercial Crew Program. 

Exactly a month ago, NASA announced that it will invest $6.8 billion in Boeing and SpaceX to continue developing and perfecting their vehicles to facilitate transportation of men and women to and from the International Space Station.  Some of that work is supported at NASA White Sands Test Facility.  SpaceX will be testing out technologies at Spaceport America.

In turn, by facilitating the development of several designs with multiple companies, the U.S. government is getting the best technology to meet NASA’s rigorous demands. 

We know how critical it is for us to develop our own transportation to the International Space Station given the latest geopolitical developments with Russia.  Of course, this also opens up opportunities for other customers, creating vast new markets.

And with transportation to the International Space Station residing with commercial entities, NASA can turn its focus to the next phase of exploration. 

Today, new opportunities for the commercial space industry extend beyond civilian applications with NASA into the military and intelligence fields.

The Air Force and the intelligence community are opening national security space launches to increased competition, thus broadening the potential number of domestic players capable of handling and being awarded these delicate missions.  

Just this year the National Reconnaissance Office announced a competitive launch.

The current operators of these sensitive launches, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, have been extremely reliable partners for NASA. 

And with a 100 percent success rate over 88 consecutive successful launches, they have served us very well. 

But we are a nation of innovators.  As we all know, competition lowers costs and keeps everyone on their toes to be their very best.

SpaceX is one new entrant that has brought new energy, passion and debate into the space industry.

The fact that an individual can lead a private company here in the United States to invest and build rockets that deliver assets into space should impress all of us and represents what’s great about America.

Earlier this year I sent a letter with several of my colleagues to Secretary Hagel in support of increased competition for Air Force launches to allow SpaceX – and the next proven, upstart company - to compete. 

Recent international events have provided another reason for increased commercial innovation and are a call to action for our space industry. 

With new entrants into space like India, Brazil, and South Korea, we must maintain our technological, operational, and knowledge leadership.

And rocky relations with Russia have rightly made us rethink our reliance on critical assets such as the Russian-built RD-180 rocket engine for national security space launches.

Some have pointed to the years it would take to build a comparable engine here in the United States and the cost to build them, but these arguments only serve to prolong inaction and delay a course of action that would make us self-reliant.

That is why I’m pleased that in Congress we have taken steps to provide the initial funding needed in FY2015 to begin risk reduction and development of a next-generation rocket engine, and I will continue supporting efforts to do so.

American companies are fully capable of manufacturing these engines to provide assured access to space for years to come, and doing so would create jobs here at home.

Just last month, United Launch Alliance and founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, announced that Blue Origin would partner in developing a liquid oxygen, liquefied natural gas rocket engine. 

We are seeing a number of capable companies stepping up to the challenge, which is great for our national security and great for our tax dollars.

I will also continue supporting programs that provide resiliency and responsiveness to our space architecture.

At Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, the Operationally Responsive Space program seeks to design, build, and launch satellites -- faster and cheaper.

Currently, more than 60 countries and government consortia, as well as numerous commercial enterprises and academic institutions, have some type of operations in space.

There were more than 1,100 active satellites in orbit at the end of 2013 with literally millions of man-made pieces of debris in space.

Given the potential for offensive Anti-Satellite tests or future attacks, we must be more responsive and be able to launch satellites faster to reconstitute whatever important capabilities those satellites previously provided.  We must also be able to create new capability in real time.

ORS is disruptive—in the best sense of the word—and can be a centerpiece to the overall space disaggregation strategy, especially during a time of fiscal constraint.  

As a potential customer in the future, ORS is important to the Spaceport. 

Throughout last year, I worked with the Air Force to maintain this program until there was an assurance to continue the congressionally mandated ORS mission. 

And I successfully included an amendment to the FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act that reaffirmed the United States’ policy to demonstrate, acquire, and deploy an effective capability for operationally responsive space and required an additional mission for ORS.

I am pleased to say that the Air Force announced earlier this year that the program is here to stay and will continue to deliver tangible benefits to both the warfighter and taxpayers.

Earlier this year, I introduced a proposal, S. 2140, to allow commercial companies to take a licensed vehicle out of commercial service and use it as an experimental platform for developing safety and performance improvements when needed.

 This small change, which is consistent with current federal procedures for commercial airplanes, will open the door for companies to launch commercially while still enabling them to test out new innovations.

But there are still many challenges ahead if we want to seamlessly exchange ideas and technologies, harness our ingenuity to grow our economy, and travel from point to point. 

The federal government needs to routinely evaluate export controls, such as ITAR and the U.S. Munitions Lists in a way that is sensitive to critical national security concerns, yet allows U.S. companies to conduct business with appropriate global customers.

It is incumbent upon the federal government to look toward international travel and understand what that will mean to our nation – for our spaceports, for our industry, and for humankind.  

As the Senate begins its work to reauthorize the Commercial Space Launch Act, I hope that you will see my office and me as a partners in innovation.

But none of these amazing opportunities will be possible without the next generation of engineers and scientists. 

New Mexico’s flagship universities are turning out students with each graduating class who will lead the next wave of space innovation. 

But you know and I know that we aren’t doing enough.  Jobs are going unfilled and talent is being imported from other countries because we aren’t graduating enough students in the STEM fields. 

Research shows there is a drastic drop off in interest in STEM in middle school. 

So I encourage all of you to go back to your communities and look for ways to partner with your local schools. 

Steps, like hosting competitions, partnering with afterschool programs, or mentoring interns can garner big rewards. 

So in ten years, at the Power of 20 Conference, we won’t be talking about what we can do, but what we have done. 

I am dedicated to helping the people and programs in New Mexico and around the country that support America’s space policy and our long-term understanding of what is possible in space.

All of these efforts wouldn’t be possible without the ingenuity, determination, and leadership of individuals like you here today.

I am thrilled that New Mexico hosts this symposium that brings together the public sector, private industry, and academia to form and expand partnerships across these silos to continue our legacy of pushing boundaries.

The American innovative spirit touches everyone, and I encourage each of you to keep forging forward, keep inspiring, and keep exploring.

I look forward to seeing what the next decade has in store for space and flight innovation.

And, again, I hope that you will view me as partner in expanding space technology development.

Robert H. Goddard once said, “It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dreams of yesterday are the hopes of today and the reality of tomorrow.” 

Some of the greatest human achievements of space exploration are within our grasp.  Let’s seize those opportunities.

Thank you.