Minister Roban On Emerging Space Economies

April 27, 2018 | 4 Comments

Deputy Premier and Minister of Transport and Regulatory Affairs Walter Roban highlighted his recent attendance at the 34th Space Symposium in Colorado, saying that  “the space and satellite industry is flourishing” and “Bermuda’s role in this industry can grow.”

Speaking in the House of Assembly today [April 27], Minister Roban said, “Last week I attended the 34th Space Symposium, organized by the Space Foundation, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“This Symposium, which ran from 16 – 19 April [although I attended for only three days], provides a forum for leaders in the commercial, government and military arenas from around the world to discuss, debate and plan for future achievements in space. Held every year, it is attended by upwards of 9,000 people.

“The purpose of my attendance was two-fold: first, to participate on the panel entitled Emerging Space Economies to promote Bermuda as a space-savvy jurisdiction; and, second, to connect with others in the industry to highlight the island’s space and satellite-related offerings, and to solicit feedback on a high-level legal and regulatory framework for new space and satellite businesses.

“As I indicated to this House, as recently as last December, the space and satellite industry is flourishing. It continues to prosper and advance, and Bermuda’s role in this industry can grow.

“During the panel I took the opportunity to emphasise our deep ties to the space industry, ties that go back to NASA’s Mercury Project in the 1960s, and extend through most of the Space Shuttle programme as well.

“The geographical advantage of Bermuda’s location is becoming more widely known to companies in the launch business. We authorize earth stations in a way that is ‘light touch’ and efficient. Our process is so efficient that some of our earth station licensees tell us it is the easiest process they have ever experienced.

“I also outlined our ability to license satellite networks. As Members will recall, this is as a result of the Outer Space Act being extended to Bermuda by the UK. Currently, we attract satellite operators who are looking to file applications at the International Telecommunications Union. Satellite operators domiciled in Bermuda can do this through the transparent, flexible and responsive process we established a number of years ago.

“Naturally, Bermuda’s dominant position in the world’s risk insurance business formed part of my remarks.

“As a result of these meetings, we were able to ascertain specific areas of the space and satellite business where Bermuda could play an effective role and identify next potential steps.”

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr Speaker and Honourable Members, last week I attended the 34th Space Symposium, organized by the Space Foundation, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. This Symposium, which ran from 16 – 19 April [although I attended for only three days], provides a forum for leaders in the commercial, government and military arenas from around the world to discuss, debate and plan for future achievements in space. Held every year, it is attended by upwards of 9,000 people.

The purpose of my attendance was two-fold: first, to participate on the panel entitled Emerging Space Economies to promote Bermuda as a space-savvy jurisdiction; and, second, to connect with others in the industry to highlight the island’s space and satellite-related offerings, and to solicit feedback on a high-level legal and regulatory framework for new space and satellite businesses.

As I indicated to this House, as recently as last December, the space and satellite industry is flourishing. It continues to prosper and advance, and Bermuda’s role in this industry can grow.

Mr Speaker, in addition to me, the panel, Emerging Space Economies, featured His Excellency Mohammed Nassar Al Ahbabi, Director General of the United Arab Emirates Space Agency. It was moderated by Sima Fishman, Managing Director of Euroconsult. A third panelist, Francisco Javier Mendieta Jimenez, General Director of the Mexican Space Agency, unfortunately missed the event due to travel complications.

The panel members reflected the diversity of space and satellite industry interests that exist in the world today. The UAE’s Space Agency is young, having been created in 2014. Nonetheless, it has an ambitious space exploration programme with the goal of having a probe in orbit around Mars by 2021. By contrast, Bermuda’s space involvement is focused on support services to the industry, rather than exploration.

Mr Speaker, during the panel I took the opportunity to emphasise our deep ties to the space industry, ties that go back to NASA’s Mercury Project in the 1960s, and extend through most of the Space Shuttle programme as well. Today, NASA’s mobile tracking station at Cooper’s Island, which provides tracking, telemetry and command and control services, is joined by earth stations established in Bermuda by the European Space Agency, SpaceX and Spire Global. The geographical advantage of Bermuda’s location is becoming more widely known to companies in the launch business. We authorize earth stations in a way that is ‘light touch’ and efficient. Our process is so efficient that some of our earth station licensees tell us it is the easiest process they have ever experienced.

I also outlined our ability to license satellite networks. As Members will recall, this is as a result of the Outer Space Act being extended to Bermuda by the UK. Currently, we attract satellite operators who are looking to file applications at the International Telecommunications Union. Satellite operators domiciled in Bermuda can do this through the transparent, flexible and responsive process we established a number of years ago.

Naturally, Bermuda’s dominant position in the world’s risk insurance business formed part of my remarks.

So, I was able to explain that we have a strong foundation in the space industry and the risk marketplace, and we aim to build on this and do more. The Bermuda Government recognizes that that space industry holds considerable economic potential, and we want to attract space businesses to our shores to create high-value jobs and grow and diversify our economy.

Mr Speaker, inevitably, there comes the question of: why Bermuda? Participating on the panel afforded me the chance to affirm that we are experts at creating conditions that allow for business growth and success. As one of the world’s most successful jurisdictions for international business, we have a long history of collaborating with industry for the mutual success of government and business. It is our intention to apply the same principles in our efforts to support the space industry.

The panel was very well-received, with questions coming from the audience and post-Symposium connections still being made.

Mr Speaker, taking advantage of the convergence of space industry leaders, and with our industry consultants, Access Partnership, over the course of the Symposium, we met with: the UK Space Agency, Blue Origin, the National Space Agency of France, Kongsberg Satellite Services or KSAT [which is 50% owned by Space Norway], Commercial Satellite Servicing or SSL, Orbital ATK, the Canadian Space Agency, Euroconsult and Planetary Resources with Consensys. In addition to the formal meetings, an informal meeting was held with the European Space Agency.

As a result of these meetings, we were able to ascertain specific areas of the space and satellite business where Bermuda could play an effective role and identify next potential steps.

First, in respect of the authorization of earth stations, we will be moving forward in formalizing our current process in the form of Earth Station Regulations. This will ensure transparency and consistency. Companies are interested in establishing earth stations in Bermuda, and a well-organized process is welcomed. There is a practical aspect involved as well, in that Bermuda should pro-actively identify appropriate sites where earth stations can be located.

Second, we will work towards developing the legal and regulatory framework needed for new space activities. Companies such as Planetary Resources, for example, which is actively pursuing asteroid mining, can only do so within a legislative framework that is in its infancy at this time.

In addition to space mining, we identified in-orbit satellite servicing as a new activity with potential commercial purpose. Earth observation, while not new, has a commercial component, separate from the expected military purposes, that has also sparked great interest in the industry.

Mr Speaker, we believe there could be legal, regulatory and administrative roles for Bermuda in supporting these new and emerging technologies and business models.

To be clear, Mr Speaker, our goal is not to regulate simply for the sake of regulating. We are a business-friendly jurisdiction, and we know businesses value a light touch when it comes to regulation. Our goal is to be as efficient and effective as possible in our efforts to support the space and satellite industry, which means leveraging our strengths and doing what is best for business.

Finally, Mr Speaker, our meetings with the space agencies highlighted the prospects for collaboration, particularly with respect to STEM education. We look forward to continuing our discussions with the UK, French, Canadian and European space agencies.

Mr Speaker, we do see one of our biggest challenges will be raising awareness about Bermuda’s space activities and changing the way people think about our island. As part of growing our space economy, we will be concentrating on getting people to recognize Bermuda as a space-oriented and space-capable jurisdiction. We are optimistic about the prospect for success.

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

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Comments (4)

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  1. Cow Polly says:

    Yep! we’re definitely a space savvy jurisdiction full of space cadets!

  2. nerema says:

    I recall him saying something similar after he attended the Paris Space Symposium in 2011.

  3. Spanner Breath says:

    I have a bridge for sale also!

  4. facts of the rock says:

    he wouldn’t even know how to light a firework rocket!

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