Eric Stallmer is the President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. The CSF is the largest trade organization dedicated to promoting the development of commercial spaceflight, pursue ever-higher levels of safety, and share best practices and expertise throughout the industry.
Stallmer most recently served as the Vice President of Government Relations at Analytical Graphics Inc. (AGI). Stallmer joined AGI in 2002, during his time at AGI, Stallmer represented AGI’s commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products and technology to defense, intelligence, Congress, and civil government sectors within the aerospace industry.
Stallmer came to AGI from The Space Transportation Association (STA), a non-profit, industry trade organization providing government representation to companies with a vested interest in the U.S space launch industry. Prior to that, Stallmer worked on Capitol Hill in the office of then Congressman Tom Coburn.
For the past two decades, Stallmer has served as an Officer in the United States Army and Army Reserves. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service while engaged in combat operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is currently assigned to the Pentagon in the office of the Deputy Chief of Staff Army for Logistics, G-4.
Ahead of Eric’s talk at Space Tech Conference, Conference Director Mindy Emsley caught up with him to discuss his role at CSF, the potential impact of reusable engines, and the benefits of companies working together.
ME: Mindy Emsley
SH: Eric W Stallmer
ME: Please tell us about your current role as President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. What are your main focus areas and priorities?
ES: I lead our team’s efforts to promote the commercial space sector. In addition to educating members of Congress about issues of relevance, we work to build consensus across the industry. A recent white paper co-authored with 12 other organizations outlined positions and provided guidance to the Presidential candidates on space-related issues.
ME: How has the landscape of the commercial spaceflight industry changed since you have been in post?
ES: Since I took the helm in 2014, I’ve seen the commercial spaceflight industry evolve significantly. The success of Blue Origin and SpaceX proves that the age of reusability is upon us, and this will definitely impact the design of future launch vehicles. The passage of the CSLCA late last year represents one of the most significant modernizations of commercial space policy and regulatory legislation since the original Commercial Space Launch Act (CSLA) was enacted in 1984. It sets the stage for the continued growth and expansion of the space transportation industry, while enabling rapid advances in safety for spaceflight participants. It also promotes investments in new commercial space applications, empowering companies like Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries to mine in space.
ME: Reusability has been a hot topic for the space industry for some time now. What is CSF’s position on reusability?
ES: Reusability has both tangible and intangible benefits to the industry. From a business perspective, the economic opportunities are great: if our companies move forward in reusability at their current pace, they could reduce the cost of launch by 30%, according to Jefferies International LLC. Additionally, reusability has inspired hope and excitement for the commercial space sector. Rocket launches have become somewhat of a cultural event that gets Americans excited about the future of commercial spaceflight.
ME: What do you foresee is the potential impact of reusable engines on future launch costs? And what impact do you think this will have on enabling the commercial space travel market?
ES: Engine manufacturing is often one of the largest costs in developing a new launch vehicle, so reusability could have a significant impact on future launches. The Space Shuttle had reusable engines, but even those had to be replaced every few flights. It will be interesting to see how often companies are able to reuse engines. If this proves to be a technically feasible and solid business model, then I believe others will follow suit.
ME: Beyond cost, what other factors are driving interest in reusable vehicles in the industry?
ES: I believe part of the interest is to reduce waste, especially as space debris becomes more of a problem. No one would ever abandon a car simply because it ran out of gas. That same logic should be applied to rockets because it does not make good economic sense to spend millions of dollars on a launch vehicle that can only be used once.
ME: Which business models and partnerships will provide stability and predictability in the supplier and industrial base to reduce cost and meet commercial, civil and national space requirements?
ES: When companies work together, it can improve the overall output of their projects. Bigelow Aerospace and United Launch Alliance just announced a partnership to launch habitats into space by 2017 with the potential to build the first commercial space station. To provide stability in the industry, there are different companies addressing each market so that multiple options will be available to customers. Specifically in the small-satellites market, there are several companies including Virgin Galactic, Rocket Lab and Firefly Space Systems developing small launch vehicles that will host small satellites as the primary payloads. The reusability being developed by Blue Origin and SpaceX will reduce costs in every sector of the space industry. Policymakers are encouraging expansion of the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation to address space traffic management while advocating for the commercial space sector to develop its own space situational awareness capability, similar to work AGI has done in the past.
ME: What do you think is the key to balancing cost reduction with quality and reliability?
ES: Although cost reduction is great, the biggest thing to keep in mind with reusability is the reliability of the launch vehicles. The engines and structures of the vehicles undergo intense stresses, which is why SpaceX hasn’t re-launched either of the rockets it has landed yet: they want to test them as much as possible to ensure the structures can be reused safely. We see Blue Origin launching the same New Shepard vehicle three times, and we’re excited about the potential there.
ME: What would you define as ‘reusable’ – is an industry standard required to qualify reusability across vehicles and systems?
ES: Although there is no official industry standard for reusability, it has come to mean that a large enough portion of the vehicle is reusable in a way that significantly reduces the cost of launch. In most cases, companies have focused on first-stage reusability, but we have heard that other companies are considering second-stage reusability.
ME: What do you view as your greatest successes within the role and as an organization?
ES: Since I’ve been with CSF, one of our greatest successes as an organization has been our pivotal role in building consensus and compromise on the passage of the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in November 2015. I also take pride in being the de facto voice for this growing and exciting part of the industry.
ME: We’re looking forward to welcoming you to the show in Pasadena. What are you most looking forward to about Space Tech Conference?
ES: I am looking forward to networking with the other delegates and spreading the word about the progress of our members, and celebrating the continued milestones achieved across the commercial spaceflight industry.
You can hear more from Eric W Stammer, President, Commercial Spaceflight Federation - 11:05 AM | May 24, 2016 | Conference Sessions