China Making Aggressive Moves to Dominate Commercial Space Sector

China satellite launch

Continuing our look at the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 Report to Congress, we examine China’s growing commercial space industry. [Full Report]

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China is using aggressive state-backed financing to capture increasing shares of the commercial launch and satellite markets, making it more difficult for American companies to compete and threatening to hollow out the U.S. industrial base.

China is also leverage “military-civil” fusion to create a burgeoning commercial space sector by providing substantial state support. Nearly 90 new space companies have been created since 2014, most of which enjoy the support of the Chinese military, defense industrial base, or state-owned research and development institutions.


NASA Examining Commercial Endorsements, Rocket Naming Rights

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Corporations buying the naming rights to launch vehicles and space missions, and NASA astronauts with endorsements and their photos on cereal boxes were some of the commercial ideas floated this week to help the agency commercialize space activities.

“There is interest in that right now,” Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during an appearance before the NASA Advisory Council (NAC). “The question is, is it possible? And the answer is, I don’t know. But, we need somebody to give us advice on whether it is.

“Why would we want to sell the naming rights?” he added. “Well, because then those private companies can then embed in their marketing campaigns NASA. We can embed NASA into the culture and fabric of American society and inspire generations of folks that will create those next capabilities to keep America preeminent not only in space but in science and technology and discovery and exploration.”


Ted Cruz to Conduct Hearing on Outer Space Treaty

Reopening the American Frontier:

Exploring How the Outer Space Treaty Will Impact American Commerce and Settlement in Space

Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
2:30 p.m.
Live webcast:

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, will convene a hearing titled “Reopening the American Frontier: Exploring How the Outer Space Treaty Will Impact American Commerce and Settlement in Space” at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.

This hearing will examine U.S. government obligations under the Outer Space Treaty on its 50th anniversary, specifically compliance with Article VI of the Treaty that requires governments to authorize and continually supervise the activities of non-government entities. This hearing will also explore the Treaty’s potential impacts on expansion of our nation’s commerce and settlement in space.

Witness Panel 1:

  • Mr. James E. Dunstan, Founder, Mobius Legal Group, PLLC
  • Ms. Laura Montgomery, Attorney and Proprietor, Ground Based Space Matters, LLC
  •  Mr. Matthew Schaefer, Co-Director of Space, Cyber and Telecommunications Law Program University of Nebraska College of Law

Witness Panel 2:

  • Mr. Mike Gold, Vice President, Washington Operations, Space Systems Loral
  • Mr. Peter Marquez, Vice President of Global Engagement, Planetary Resources
  • Colonel Pamela Melroy, Colonel, U.S. Air Force, Retired and Former Astronaut
  • Mr. Bob Richards, Founder and CEO, Moon Express

Hearing Details:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017
2:30 p.m.
Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on

FAA Oversight of Commercial Space Transportation Hearing Video

The House Subcommittee on Aviation held its first hearing in seven years on the FAA’s oversight of commercial space last month. Members heard from a heavily industry-centric panel of experts who largely praised the moratorium on regulations that is in place until 2023.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s scathing criticism of the FAA’s oversight role on SpaceShipTwo prior to the accident was briefly discussed on a couple of occasions, as were the potential conflicts between FAA’s dual roles of oversight and promotion.

Taber MacCallum of World View Enterprises dismissed the criticism of FAA Associate Administrator George Nield and the FAA’s performance prior to the crash as Monday morning quarterbacking. He also called for a permanent extension of the moratorium on regulations.

Michael López-Alegría also claimed that the FAA had done its job properly. He dismissed the idea that regulating the industry would make it any safer.

Witness List:

  • Dr. George C. Nield, Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration | Written Testimony
  • Dr. Gerald L. Dillingham, Director of Civil Aviation Issues, Government Accountability Office | Written Testimony
  • Mr. Michael Gold, Chair, Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee | Written Testimony
  • Mr. Michael López-Alegría, Vice Chair, Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee | Written Testimony
  • Mr. Taber MacCallum, Chief Technology Officer, World View Enterprises | Written Testimony


Mike Gold Leaves Bigelow for Space Systems Loral

space_systems_loralMike Gold has left Bigelow Aerospace to become vice president of Washington, DC, operations for Space Systems Loral (SSL). Gold has served in a similar role for Bigelow Aerospace since 2003.

“Expanding our DC-Area office demonstrates our commitment to further build on the work we are doing with US government agencies,” said SSL President John Celli. “Michael Gold brings a wealth of experience with both civil and defense organizations and will strengthen our ability to make a contribution to government programs.”

Here’s the press release:

PALO ALTO, Calif., May 9, 2016 — Space Systems Loral (SSL), a leading provider of commercial satellites, today announced that Michael Gold has assumed the role of Vice President, Washington, DC Operations at SSL. Mr. Gold, who previously served as Director of D.C. Operations and Business Growth at Bigelow Aerospace, will expand SSL’s Washington, D.C. presence to support the company’s increasing U.S. government business.


CSF Elects Frank DiBello as New Chairman, Adds New Associate Member

Space Florida President Frank DiBello
Space Florida President Frank DiBello

Washington D.C. – The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to announce that it has elected Frank DiBello, President and CEO of Space Florida, as its new Chairman succeeding Stuart Witt, CEO of Mojave Air & Space Port. At its semi-annual Board of Directors meeting this week in Jacksonville, Florida, the CSF also elected Mike Gold of Bigelow Aerospace and Sean Mahoney of Masten Space Systems to the Executive Committee of the Board, joining DiBello, Tim Hughes (SpaceX), Rob Meyerson (Blue Origin) and Mark Sirangelo (Sierra Nevada Corporation), who were reelected.

Also at the meeting, the full Board approved adding Interflight Global Corporation to the associate membership of the organization.


This Week on The Space Show

This week on The Space Show with David Livingston:

1. Monday, June 30, 2014: 2-3:30 PM PDT (5-6:30 PM EDT, 4-5:30 PM CDT): DR. DOUG PLATA returns with more on his Lunar Cots & cislunar work, including ISDC presentations and upcoming AIAA Space 2014 presentations.

2. SPECIAL TIME: Tuesday, July 1, 2014:, 2-3 PM PDT (5-6 PM EDT, 4-5 PM CDT): We welcome back MIKE GOLD, the Chair of the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (“COMSTAC”) . Mr. Gold is also the Bigelow Aerospace’s director of D.C. Operations and Business Growth. Mr. Gold’s focus for this program is COMSTAC.

3. Friday, July 4, 2014, 9:30 -11 AM PDT (12;30-2 PM EDT; 11:30-1 PM CDT): No show today due to the start of the July 4th holiday weekend. .

4. Sunday, July 6, 2014, 12-1:30 PM PDT (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT). No show today due to the July 4th holiday weekend.

CSF Adds Six New Members

csf_logo_newestWashington D.C. (CSF PR) – The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to announce the addition of six new member organizations. Bigelow Aerospace and Orbital Outfitters have joined as new Executive Members and Moon Express has moved up from Associate to Executive Membership. ASRC Federal, Spaceport Sweden, and World View Enterprises have joined as Associate Members.

“The CSF membership is representative of all facets of space exploration,” said CSF President Michael Lopez-Alegria. “This diversity is indicative of a growing, thriving sector, with each company contributing to the overarching success of the commercial space exploration industry.”


Bigelow Eyes Wallops for Human Space Missions

Antares rocket on the launch pad on Wallops Island. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Antares rocket on the launch pad on Wallops Island. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Bigelow Aerospace’s Mike Gold told the Eastern Shore Defense Alliance this week that his company is looking for human space launches from Wallops Island, Virginia.

“We are prepared to make a proposal that will include human spaceflight from Wallops,” said Michael N. Gold, director of D.C. Operations for Bigelow Aerospace, a private company based in Las Vegas.

The company is talking to NASA about the possibility of conducting a demonstration mission that would involve human spaceflight — and Bigelow wants to use Virginia’s spaceport as its base.


Virgin Galactic’s Ban on Selling Tickets to Chinese Citizens

SpaceShipTwo ignites its engines on the third powered flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
SpaceShipTwo ignites its engine above Koehn Lake on its third powered flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

It was a great story while it lasted, one full of spies, technological espionage, Cold War-style fears, and super power rivalry. And then the story turned into something far stranger.

The news broke two weeks ago that Virgin Galactic is turning away would-be space tourists from China. The reason: strict U.S. export restrictions known as ITAR that are designed to prevent the transfer of sensitive technologies to hostile foreign nations. Visions of Chinese spies signing up for flights and stealing the secrets to this new technology filled numerous news stories in the week that followed.

There was only one problem: the story appears to be only half true.


Biotech Gone Mad: Meet the Donkephant

The above image appears in a PowerPoint presentation given by Mike Gold of Bigelow Aerospace during the FAA Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee meeting this week. Specifically, it represents the bipartisan effort by Republicans (symbolized by the elephant) and Democrats (the donkey) to find common ground on reforming the nation’s restrictive export control laws. Generally, it tells me that these guys should stick to building space hardware and not bioengineer disturbing looking animals.

On a more serious note, prospects for export reform are looking up.


The Space Show Turns 10

This week on The Space Show….

Monday, May 9, 2011, 2-3:30 PM PDT. For the first hour of the program, we welcome Mike Gold, Director of D.C. Operations & Business Growth for Bigelow Aerospace, LLC. The last 30 minutes of this show will be a discussion related to the interview with Mr. Gold. .

CLASSROOM: Tuesday, May 10, 2011, 7-9 PM PDT. This is the special 10th Anniversary Space Program and the Space Cynics are reuniting for a discussion about the future of human spaceflight and more. Our discussion will includes Space Cynics founder Shubber Ali, fellow cynics Tom Olson and Dr. John Jurist as well as myself.

Friday, May 13 , 2011 , 9:30-11 AM PDT. We welcome back Janice Dunn of the California Space Authority regarding the California Space Center and more.

Sunday, May 15, 2011, 12-1:30 PM PDT. This will be a special and focused quasi-Open Lines program regarding a letter I recently received from an 8th grade student. Prior to the program, I will post the letter on The Space Show blog (without name and address) and I would like to invite the listeners to comment to this student on what he said. This student calls for the reduction of NASA and its budget. This student is articulate and does have an interest and awareness of space and NASA. Keep your responses civil and instructive. This student has in my opinion, earned the right to be treated seriously and with respect and he has an interest in space which I would like to see grow and develop.

Entrepreneurs Transforming U.S. Space Industry

A Boeing CST-100 crew module docks at a Bigelow Aerospace space station. (Credit: Boeing)

Upon arriving in Florida for the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference, I was pleased to see the front page of the Orlando Sentinel’s Sunday edition was dominated by a large front-page story about Robert Bigelow and his plans for private commercial space stations. There is not much new in the article, but it does contain this astute observation from Bigelow Aerospace’s Mike Gold:

He said the current crop of new space entrepreneurs — such as Bigelow and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk — bring to the table not only personal wealth but also a business sense developed in other industries, including what Gold called “good subcontractor management.” (SpaceX, for example, designed, built and launched its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule for less than $1 billion, almost a rounding error in the typical NASA contract.)


Bigelow Pitches Space Station in Canada

Bigelow's space station would have space to accommodate up to 12 people. (Photo: Douglas Messier)

Bigelow Aerospace was in Canada last week pitching its private space station to potential users:

A company representative was in Ottawa last weekend, delivering a keynote speech and lobbying officials at the annual summit of the Canadian Space Society. Mike Gold, a Bigelow director, called it his first attempt to reach out to the Canadian government and the space industry. He argued that the facility will offer countries a cheaper way into space within five years. In an email Tuesday, the CSA’s director of space exploration, Gilles Leclerc, said that the agency is not involved, “in any way,” in the Bigelow project. But Gold expresses optimism. “I don’t know how much I can say, but let me say if there wasn’t the interest in Canada, I wouldn’t be here,” he said.

Read the full story.