Astronaut Senator Mark Kelly Praises ‘Awesome’ Space Business

Arizona Senator Mark Kelly speaks at the annual Commercial Space Transportation Conference on February 9, 2023.

Michael Schitz | CNBC

Arizona Senator Mark Kelly, who flew into space four times in his 15-year career as an astronaut, praised the industry’s growth and called for increased competition.

“Some of the achievements are really mind-boggling; it was a big hit,” Kelly said while speaking at a luncheon during the Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.

Kelly noted that the cost of sending satellites, people and payloads into orbit is now “little” than it was when he flew NASA’s Space Shuttle. He added that despite the industry’s encouraging growth, rocket companies need to “take charge” and bring more new launch vehicles to market faster and embrace resurgent competition rather than stifle it.

“We need more launch vehicles to continue to reduce the costs associated with getting payloads into orbit,” Kelly said.

A Falcon Heavy rocket launches the USSF-67 mission on January 15, 2023 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.


Rockets are being launched at an unprecedented rate, with a new annual record of 87 from the US set in 2022. Most have been launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which currently launches every four days on average, but a number of other companies are looking to pick up the pace. the pace and debut of new missiles in the coming years – including Rocket LabUnited Launch Alliance, Blue Origin, Aster, virgin orbit, Northrop GrummanFirefly and ABL.

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Kelly admitted that, “like perhaps many people in NASA and many people in Washington” at the turn of the century, he was skeptical about relying on private companies for launches.

“I always like to think that I’m the first person to admit they’re wrong, and I’ve been about it,” Kelly said.

“The commercial space sector is critical. It is critical to the future of the US economy and critical to our leadership overseas. Without the commercial space sector, we would not be able to put our national security assets into orbit. entire sectors of the US economy, from telecommunications to global shipping and navigation, will not be globally competitive,” Kelly added.

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