Why America Is Lost in Space

By Sutherl, Benjamin | Newsweek International, February 9, 2009 | Go to article overview

Why America Is Lost in Space


Sutherl, Benjamin, Newsweek International


Byline: Benjamin Sutherland

Strict rules on U.S. military technology have helped boost Europe to the top of a $100 billion industry.

"Contaminated by American technology" makes for a curious but enlightening description. For most of the past century, the world has viewed American technology as unrivaled, and the notion that the U.S. space industry could be shunted to the margins would have seemed absurd. But the attitude of European space-industry executives toward U.S. components and software has changed in recent years. When building, launching or operating satellites and other spacecraft, many have come to believe, American know-how is now a liability.

The culprit is not American technology per se, but onerous restrictions the U.S. government has placed on the export of space components to all countries--enemies and allies alike. Ten years ago the U.S. Congress, fearful that U.S. technology would wind up in Chinese missiles and bombs, put commercial satellites under the jurisdiction of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, a set of rules for purchasers of American military products. The rules say that each component of civilian spacecraft--even a rivet, if it was designed specifically for space--must be treated as a weapon.

Those rules have imposed huge bureaucratic burdens on European and Asian firms that want to use even the most modest technology made in America. The effect has been to hamper U.S. competitiveness in the space business and to give Europe a boost. The decade since ITAR took effect has seen a rapid rise in the demand for satellites and rockets to launch them, fueled by the markets for mobile phones, especially in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Washington seems to have imposed stringent rules just as space services began to soar and alternatives to American technology took root.

The impact is most keenly felt in the $123 billion commercial-satellite business, which has been growing at more than 10 percent a year for more than a decade. In 1998, the year before ITAR took effect, U.S. firms accounted for 73 percent of the world market. Two years later U.S. market share had plunged to 27 percent. During the same period, Europe's share rose from about a quarter to more than half, according to the Satellite Industry Association in Washington, D.C.

The rules have also hamstrung U.S. suppliers in the growing space-launch business. U.S. launch firms earned $304 million in revenues from launch services in 2003, but by 2007 their take was down to $150 million. In the same period revenues from European launches increased from $178 million to $840 million, according to Forecast International, a consultancy in Newtown, Connecticut. France's reliable, heavy-payload Ariane V rocket is now the hands-down world leader, with six launches last year.

The entrepreneurial spunk and national pride of Europe and other space powers also have something to do with America's general decline. But "market distortions created by the government" due to applying ITAR to commercial satellites were the single biggest factor, says Loren Thompson, a space and defense expert at the Lexington Institute, a think tank in Arlington, Virginia. The procedures for obtaining an ITAR export license are "so unpredictable and inconsistent, and not transparent," that U.S. satellite-technology sales have suffered, says Kalpak Gude, vice president of regulatory affairs at Intelsat in Washington, D.C., the world's largest operator of commercial satellites. Consider the experience of Las Vegas, Nevada-based Bigelow Aerospace. In 2006, ITAR officials decided that the company's Genesis prelaunch satellite stand--similar in size, shape and technological sophistication to a coffee table--could only travel to Russia escorted by two armed guards. Bigelow was billed for the security detail.

Once cleared for export, even the smallest component comes with strings attached. If a satellite built by French giant Thales Alenia Space incorporates a line of computer code from a U.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Why America Is Lost in Space
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.