U.S. Satellite Operators Urge Commerce Department to Revise Proposed Commercial Remote Sensing Regulations

U.S. satellite operators Maxar Technologies (NYSE:MAXR) (TSX:MAXR), Planet Labs, HawkEye 360, BlackSky Global and Spire Global have urged the U.S. Department of Commerce to revise their proposed commercial remote sensing regulations which, as drafted, would put U.S. firms at a significant disadvantage in the global marketplace.

Maxar, Planet, HawkEye 360, BlackSky Global and Spire Global recently submitted a joint response to the Commerce Department’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking objecting to the newly proposed rules. While U.S. satellite operators appreciate the Department’s recognition of the risk to American leadership in space that comes from overly burdensome regulation, the proposed regulations would undermine U.S. competitiveness, impair U.S. innovation and deter investment in the U.S. commercial space industry. Commenters urged the Commerce Department to significantly revise the proposed regulations to take a more narrowly tailored approach to ensure the pressing need for continued U.S. leadership in commercial space is more appropriately balanced with other regulatory interests.

The U.S. commercial space industry provides critical products and services that support disaster and humanitarian crisis response, national and global security interests and enhance the location-enabled services that billions of people around the world use every day. Addressing the lack of transparency, operational uncertainty and institutionalized delays that impair the ability of the U.S. industry to bring innovative products and services to market should be the primary focus of the Commerce Department’s efforts.

For example, license requests to bring new commercial satellite imagery capabilities to market can take years to approve, operators have little visibility into the decision-making process and operating licenses are subject to retroactive modifications after investment has already been made and systems are operating. By failing to address these issues, the proposed regulations put at risk continued U.S. leadership in the global commercial space industry, including the satellite imagery market, which is alone projected to reach $3 billion by 2020.

Dr. Walter Scott, Maxar CTO, stated that the U.S. commercial space industry needs smart regulations that promote innovation, encourage competitiveness and bolster national security and, unfortunately, the Commerce Department’s draft regulations fall far short of these goals. Maxar, Planet, HawkEye 360, BlackSky Global and Spire Global urge U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and the National Space Council to intervene and ensure that new regulations allow American space firms to continue to lead in this dynamic global industry.

Robbie Schingler, Planet’s Co-founder, added that the draft regulations represent a three-decade step backward. This is cold water thrown onto a thriving ecosystem with rapidly changing space architectures, many new entrants and novel business models. The companies strongly urge regulators to take a strategic view and create a forward-leaning environment that opens up near-Earth space to efficient, secure and trusted commercial enterprise. Building new industries bolsters American competitiveness and grows the economy, which fuels national security. Should this rule progress without significant modification, it will represent a direct threat to 21st century U.S. national security.

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