COLORADO SPRINGS — The Aerospace Industries Association is using the annual Space Symposium here to sound an election-year call for better U.S. government support as its member companies market their commercial-space wares abroad.

David Melcher, president and CEO of the trade group, said last week he plans to promote a set of steps the government can take to help the U.S. space industry compete as the Cold War government market for spaceflight hardware shifts to an international business environment.

“We as a nation need to do more to help preserve this national treasure that is our space industrial base, and to provide opportunities for that industrial base to be successful internationally,” Melcher said. “It’s a very competitive marketplace. I think the playing field ought to be level for American companies to compete in that marketplace.”

The AIA is rolling out a “Commercial Space Competitiveness Strategy for the 21st Century” at the Space Symposium, and is working with a loose coalition of like-minded academic and industrial organizations to inject its ideas into campaigns for the White House and Congress.

High on the list is completing reforms of International Traffic In Arms Regulations (ITAR) covering space hardware, including an update on the rules governing export of Earth-observation hardware. AIA members involved in commercial remote sensing say they are hampered in selling their wares by overly restrictive restrictions on imagery resolution.

“They have not finished the aperture and resolution regulations that U.S. companies are governed by,” said Dak Hardwick, AIA assistant vice president for international affairs. “For the U.S. on ITAR, we’re at 0.35 meters. In the international market you’re starting to see 1.1 meters, which is significant. Anything above 0.35, companies are governed by the ITAR, and that is an area where we need to finish that to give U.S. companies and, frankly, international customers, clarity about what is and what is not able to be exported.”

Other regulatory and policy improvements AIA will push include space traffic management, orbital debris mitigation and spectrum management.

“We’ve got to preserve enough capability for spectrum for commercial space use, just like it’s being preserved for unmanned aerial system use and other military needs, and be wary of selling off spectrum before you’ve realized the full potential of what could be accomplished in commercial space,” said Melcher, who is scheduled to address the Space Symposium on April 12.

Also on the list are a push for clear policy on where hosted payloads may ride, and what technology they may contain; plans for supporting new commercial-space applications, such as the low Earth orbit broadband constellations planned by One Web and others; an expansion of Export-Import Bank financing for space exports, and reinvigorating the Department of Commerce’s role in pushing U.S. space products to international customers.

The AIA is also calling for a look at a role for NASA in promoting U.S. space products, citing the example of the recent agreement between Japan and the United Arab Emirates on the Persian Gulf state’s planned robotic mission to Mars, which will launch on the H-IIA.
“I don’t think it’s any accident that the launch vehicle is aligned with the partner to the effort,” Melcher said. “It’s a way of thinking about when you’re making these agreements and soliciting this international support, are you thinking about how to tie U.S. industry to it?”

The AIA and other groups working to raise election-year awareness of space-policy issues plan to use events such as the Space Symposium to press their points. Melcher said the ideas have been presented before, and the upcoming election is an opportunity to gain more attention for them.

“We’re just going to keep working on this,” he said. “We have not invented anything brand new. We’re just saying let’s bring together all the pieces that help to form a coherent strategy and then work on trying to execute it, get people aligned behind it, so we can do a better job in the decade to come.”