“They have absolutely no interest, mostly because they've all done one investment and gotten burned because Congress changed its mind, or there was one big program that they thought was going to go for 10 years and it got canceled,” says Hoyt Davidson, founding and managing partner of Near Earth—an investment bank that specializes in commercial satellites, aerospace and wireless telecom. “They just don't like government as a customer.”
Congress may have realized that when it set up the commercial space office at the FAA to regulate and promote commercial space travel. The office is moving into the new space era proactively, with programs to accommodate new space-business ventures, and it is seeing a dramatic increase in its activities. In 2012, the office oversaw three licensed or permitted launches, and this year it has already handled 13, says George Nield, associate administrator for commercial space transport.
In general, neither business nor investors like uncertainty, Nield says. “Whether they like the regulations, or not, or they like your policies or they'd rather have different ones, 'just tell me what you want us to do.' You hear that refrain over and over again. I think one of the most important things government can do is be clear on those rules.”
One long-time student of the kind of commercial space activities the government is trying to promote today is Charles Miller, president of NexGen Space in Arlington, Va., who was NASA's senior adviser for commercial space from February 2009-January 2012. A strong advocate for private-sector launch, he says a lot of the perceived hurdles are really nothing more than excuses.
“Trillions of dollars are washing around the world, looking for good investments, where there's a real business and a real market,” Miller says. “For people who are complaining that there isn't enough investment, there's usually something wrong with the business opportunity, so the investment is going elsewhere.”
Tap on the icon in the digital edition of AW&ST to see some space entrepreneurs' ideas for generating profits beyond the Earth's atmosphere, or go to AviationWeek.com/newspace