Looking for help with space regulations?

Creating the technology to get to space is hard enough, something that may be just as or even more difficult, navigating your way through the bureaucratic regulations that you need to comply with. As with most industries, those just getting into it are going to have the hardest time learning about the rules in place. Enter the Association of Commercial Space Professionals, who at the end of February 2023 are hosting a Space Regulatory Bootcamp. It’s designed specifically for startups and is being done in partnership with the Air Force Research Lab. To learn more about it, the  Federal Drive with Tom Temin spoke with Bailey Reichelt, partner at Aegis Space Law, and Bryce Kennedy who is the firm’s Business Development Director.

Interview transcript:

Bailey Reichelt
So I’m one of the founding partners, I have one other partner, Jack Shelton. It’s actually a bit of an interesting story, we met both as international trade attorneys. I was working in house for a big U.S. defense contractor. I did a lot of helping subcontractors figure out how to comply with regulations, so we could work with them. Seem there is a real need there, for smaller businesses needing regulatory help, before they can actually afford the attorneys that could help them with the regulatory help. Jack and I had been working on designing export training for a big contractor and then decided to go out on our own. And, actually, just found a law firm that does just that. Let’s provide regulatory assistance to small companies. My background was in space law from Ole Miss law. And we decided, this industry was really where our passion was. It’s a very, highly regulated, industry.

I have a list of 12 agencies, just right off the bat, that most commercial space startups have to deal with, they don’t even know half these agencies exist when they start. So one of the things we wanted space law to do, was to really help them get a handle on the regulatory obligations, really help all those innovative tech startups out there. And we really like the companies where the founders are still involved, because there is so much passion. They’re out to change the world. And we want to help them actually do that. And I joke with Jack all the time, like, we don’t get the luxury of being the scientists or the inventors who make the innovative and world changing technologies. But we can help them get those technologies and that company to market. We can help them navigate the regs, we can help them actually be successful. And then we all benefit. And one of the beautiful things about working in commercial space, is that pretty much everyone is aligned in this passion goal, that if we can send something to space, not only does that fulfill some sort of greater need and like communal feeling for us, like we’re changing the world, we’re exploring space. But all the technology, that we develop that can keep someone alive to Mars, it also redefines life as we know it on Earth. So it helps everyone. And everyone in this industry really does want to change the world and see everyone grow. And it’s a big enough industry that there’s lots of room for all of us. So we founded the law firm, with the idea that we’re going to help small companies, actually, succeed with their tech by navigating the regulatory hurdles. And so far, there’s been lots and lots of demand. And that kind of led us to establishing the association of commercial space professionals. And the regulatory bootcamp that we’re hosting in Albuquerque in February.

Eric White
We will certainly get to that. So I was going to just talk to Bryce a little bit, about the how he found himself in this particular arena. And you’re right about all the massive amount of regulations there. And so Bryce, I wonder if you could, maybe, just give us a few pillars of space law itself, since it is something relatively new to most people.

Bryce Kennedy
Sure. One of the things that really drew me to space law, so I had my own executive coaching company before this. I was an attorney before that. And then I had an executive coaching company in New York. And I remember when I pivoted, as most people did a lot of during COVID, it was just something simple, where I was kind of looking up at the stars and starting to ask questions about, who’s protecting space? And so that’s when I decided to go full bore into it. And that’s when I met Jack and Bailey. And I was like, I want to dust off my law degree and really use it for something meaningful. And every good space attorney or someone in the industry starts off with a very high level, the Outer Space Treaty. And that’s at a UN level. It governs most nations. It has a set of principles that people follow. One of the big things is that, you can’t claim any territory as your own for a country. There’s provisions in there for war and avoiding nuclear proliferation in space and that type of stuff. But what’s really cool is, it governs a lot of the way spaceflight is shaped. And so, as Bailey said, we have the regulatory field with [Federal Communications Commission (FCC)], [Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)], [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)], in terms of licensing. And then on top of that, any type of commercial activity boils down to, essentially, if you’re a traditional company. And the thing that, as lawyers, we have to be careful with, because as Bailey said, there’s 12 different agencies that we’re looking at. So everything counts. And if say you violate something, in one agency, there can be this cross pollination where you violate something else in another one. And so, they’re, traditionally, these big firms that worked for the Lockheeds, the Raytheon’s, [National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)], [Department of Defense (DoD)], over the years. And they were used to having those massive contracts, and huge staffs in whatever. But as the commercial space industry becomes much more nimble, much more agile, those firms aren’t necessarily what we need anymore. And so what we’re trying to do, at different levels, is streamlining a lot of it. We’re trying to make it more accessible. And we’re also trying to, kind of, bring the information forward that was kind of kept behind these barriers of large law firms or in governmental agencies that wasn’t necessarily appropriate for commercial industry. And now it is.

Bailey Reichelt
He brings up a really good point, bringing it back to the government side of things. I don’t know if you saw, Eric. A couple of weeks ago, it was in the news, that the Biden administration might publish an executive order the end of Q1 in 2023. Asking the Commerce Department, to try to streamline space regs, because they’re starting to realize how, prohibitively, hard it is for some of these companies to get their technology to space. Or more importantly, to get it to the government who has real world problems to solve right now. Like, one of the most notorious ones being like, orbital debris. We’re trying to source all the solutions we can, we need lots of solutions. And they’re seeing how hard it is for those companies, actually, make it. It’s part of why the Air Force has put funding towards our bootcamp to teach companies how to deal with this stuff. They want them to make it and get across these hurdles, that they keep seeing them fail on. We’re hoping that what we’re teaching, at our boot camp and what information we’re unlocking through the association of commercial space professionals, is going to really illustrate to government, as well as teach the companies. But illustrate to government, how exactly hard it is to do this. And we can, maybe, guide them. Like, here are places we could streamline and here are places that are, prohibitively, difficult that we really need to focus on. Because luckily, with the startups we’ve been working with, I think we’ve aggregated a lot of industry information, on where the regs are completely unworkable, or where they’re going to create the, as DoD says, like the valley of death for startups. I think we have a lot of information there. And hopefully, we’re going to be able to continue using [Association for Commercial Space Professionals (ACSP)] to, even educate regulators and like government contracting officers and such on the commercial side of why this is important.

Eric White
So why don’t we get into how one of the vehicles have changed that you all are using. And that’s these regulatory boot camps that you’re working with ACSP with and in partnership with the Air Force Research Lab. What can you tell me about what those boot camps entail? And some of the responses that you’ve gotten from participants?

Bryce Kennedy
So ACSP, Association for Commercial Space Professionals, is a certifying body for commercial space professionals. And we’re creating and, essentially that is a completely separate organization from me to space law. And we’re intentionally doing that with this amazing advisory board, that we’ve hand chosen and asked to be a part of this. Because what we want to do is, let me just backtrack real quick. One of the things that we have all agreed on, that we kind of got sick and tired of, is going to these symposiums or going to these these discussions or conferences, where everyone talks about the same thing. We need to streamline the regs, orbital debris, China, we get it, it’s all bad. There’s no doubt about it and it needs to change.

However, in the meantime, we got to work with what we have. And right now we have the regulations that exist. And that’s where the bootcamp really developed from. And with the boot camp, we have 14 or 15 subjects, it’s kind of like space regulation in a box. That people are going to be able to come to the boot camp, they’re going to learn from experts that have been in this field for decades. And they’re not only going to learn exactly what the regs are. How much sometimes, say licensing costs, the timeframe for these things. They’ll also be able to take an action item and apply it to their business or their field of practice, immediately. And so that’s what we’re really trying to focus on. This isn’t just a conference, this is something, this is an education, this is a training, again, from these high level people. And then at the end of it, we’re offering a certification. And that’s the, like I said, for the commercial space professionals. And that’s where the ACSP comes in and the advisory board. And we’re going to have this first level certification offered after the boot camp, where people can take this. We’re going to have our advisory board, because we didn’t want just us looking at this from one angle, just from our own angle. There’s blind spots everywhere. And so we have such an incredible team from, NOAA to Saquib for Blue Origin, when he worked at Blue Origin. like just incredible group of people. And they’re going to take it apart and put it back together. And so when that certification and that exam comes out, it’s gonna be difficult. And people, when they pass it, they’ll have this opportunity and the feeling like, oh, we really challenged ourselves. And it says it on our website, ACSP. It’s a chance to democratize space and the information behind it. And eventually, ACSP is going to start offering different levels of certifications. We’re going to have different modules of different trainings there. And everyone we talked to, it’s so funny, everyone we talked to is like, this is exactly what is needed. Not everyone has time to go get an engineering degree or go staff on the Hill, to learn these regs. And if we can break this down through our network, through the contributions of other people, through ACSP, we really feel like we’re gonna move the needle in a way that’s never been done before.

Bailey Reichelt
Yeah, I think reiterating, kind of, where this just really meets practicality. When I was in house. I know in law school, I learned the word ITAR, International Traffic in Arms Regulations. No one taught me how to apply for an export license. And when I started, you’re like, well, you’re a lawyer, get an export license. I’m like, I have no idea where to begin. So one of the things we’ll be teaching is, how do I even start to know if I need an export license? How do I apply for one? What are the triggering factors? If I’m a government contractor, or want to be a government contractor, there is a litany of questions in [System for Award Management (SAM)], which is the registration platform, that issues the cage. How do I answer those? Well, these are all things that we’re going to be teaching skills for. And I know that when I was in house, I wish someone had told me how these things had implicated one another. So when you get into government contracting, you’re going to be asked to comply with export controls. Or if you’re dealing with foreign investors or foreign employees. Maybe you’re going to be dealing with [Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CIFIUS)]. Maybe you’re going to be dealing with [Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)], which is a part of the Department of the Treasury. They deal with sanctions and things like that. How am I doing due diligence? All of these things intersect each other. And if you don’t know how, or where they intersect, or how much they cost or how long they take, it can ruin your whole contract cost you penalties. Especially, if you have contracts that are sensitive to dates, like launch agreements, or ride share agreements. You could be breaking or in breach of the whole contract, just because you weren’t educated on what the realistic timelines were, for all the different moving parts of your business and your particular mission.

So I wish this had existed before. We’re creating it now because there’s definitely a need, but there’s been a need for a while. And we’re seeing a lot of interest among like people, kind of, in the situation I was, which is general counsel’s at space companies or just founders who want to be educated so they can avoid these pitfalls. And they can preserve all of their their resources, both, monetary resources and their time. So that they don’t have to go hire an expensive lawyer, put things back together after they took an investment that they learned after the fact they shouldn’t have We can teach them how to avoid these things on the front end and give them our experience working with lots of companies across commercial space. And we’re just going to, hopefully, speed up the process, save them money and put their resources where they really need to go, which is indicating their technology to customers. What we hope, as many people will come to the bootcamp as possible. We’re offering a hybrid model, as well. A lot of students have been interested in attending that. Follow us on ACSP.space, we have a newsletter that you can sign up for or you can follow us on LinkedIn, either Aegis Space Law, or you can follow ACSP. You can see what we’re up to and see all the things we’re adding to that website, either website and the newsletter all the time. The newsletter comes out monthly. And we try to keep it as practical as possible by saying, here’s why you should care about this thing. And then giving you a quick snippet on what’s going on in industry policy and everything else commercial space.

Bryce Kennedy
And the other thing is the bootcamp is hybrid. So for those who can’t come Feb. 21 to 23, in Albuquerque. You can attend online on Zoom and still have the offering for the certification.

Eric White
And is there a concern there on you that if you do too many, teach too many, regulators and commercial space professionals about this knowledge and how to navigate the waves of this regulation. You may work yourself out of a job there?

Bailey Reichelt
What’s really funny is, I get asked that a lot. And we have only had more and more work, the more that we’ve taught people how to deal with the regs. I’m not worried at all about that, as I said, like space is huge. There’s only more and more companies in space. This benefits mankind the more innovative technologies, we can get fully commercialized. So no, I don’t think we’re going out of business. And when we see other law firms wanting to work in this space, we want to network with them. Because there’s room enough for all of us, there’s plenty of work. And, frankly, most of these companies end up saying, yeah, I’m not touching securities with a 10 foot pole anyway. Do you want to work for us?

Bryce Kennedy
And the truth is, if we don’t open up this information and make it accessible at a high level, or even a more intricate level. Then we, as a country, will lose our position as a space power. That’s the overarching theme. Before we could, especially as attorneys, in large law firms, we could bury it deep and hoard the information and put it behind all these different paywalls and all these other things. And that was fine, because we were leaders in the industry. Now we don’t have that benefit. And, some of the major barriers to entry, for commercial space are the regulations. And while it is there is that fear kind of instilled in a lot of legal minds, as Bailey said, we’re finding quite the opposite. And we are really pushing the envelope in terms of making the U.S. a commercial space behemoth in to, traditionally, just continuing to make it open for everyone. So that’s why we started.

Bailey Reichelt
Really good point. Again, let me bring it full circle with an example here. The FCC, it’s expensive to work with the FCC. But if you want to talk to your satellite, when it’s in space, you need to work with the FCC as a U.S. company. I say that there’s caveat to that. You can work with other countries, we’ve had several companies, especially ones that have more of an international presence. They say the FCC is too hard. It’s too expensive. It’s too slow. There’s too many hurdles that I have to jump over. I’m going to work with Germany, their regs are straightforward, they’re easy to comply with, it’s cheaper, it’s faster. So there’s a real, actual potential that the U.S. loses their cutting edge, because our regulators are more difficult to comply with. And more opaque, than all the other regulators they could choose to deal with, say, in Europe.

Eric White
Got it. And it speaks to the uniqueness of this industry. And in speaking to a lot of the commercial space professionals that we do for the show. You do really touch on something there about, they’re competitive, but they’re also excited for each other. It’s not quite as cutthroat as other industries that I’m sure that you both have worked in, as far as being a regulatory law professional. Is that the case that you’re finding?

Bailey Reichelt
I would agree with that. That’s part of why so many people are passionate about this industry. It’s why it excites people. I mean, rockets are innately exciting. But when you work with people, who everyone has at least some part of a common goal that we’re going to change the world and better humanity. It’s something to be excited about every day. And frankly, I don’t need to make the salary of a lawyer in D.C. And I don’t need that, if I can go to work every day thinking, I’ve changed something, I’ve done something better. I did something that benefits my daughter’s generation. And as a lawyer, there just so few opportunities to do some of that stuff. So again, working on streamlining regs, I think that is, kind of, every lawyers dream, on how you can actually impact change. And I guess it, I don’t know exactly where I’m going with this. Yes, it’s less cutthroat, it’s much more rewarding to work with commercial space companies.

Bryce Kennedy
One of the jokes that I always bring up is in my previous life, when I was an attorney in New York on Wall Street. I worked for the bad guys, the quote unquote, bad guys. I made a ton of money. I could buy whatever I wanted. And it was one of those things. However, I had a bleeding ulcer, I thought I had a tumor. I was probably just a hard sneeze away from divorcing my wife. Life was awful. But it was like I was following the pattern of the big time attorneys, of that cutthroat world, of the New York Wall Street. And it was just like, it was completely debilitating from just a overall mental health standpoint. And fighting and something like this, when you’re passionate and you’re able to bridge passion, optimism, altruism and the law together. It’s like, it’s the most perfect combination to live life by.

Eric White
Yeah, I can hear it from both of your voices. So why don’t we get into how one of the vehicles of change, that you all are using. And that’s these regulatory boot camps that you’re working with ACSP with and in partnership with the Air Force Research Lab. What can you tell me about what those boot camps entail? And some of the responses that you’ve gotten from participants?

Bryce Kennedy
So ACSP, Association for Commercial Space Professionals, is a certifying body for commercial space professionals. And we’re creating and, essentially that is a completely separate organization from me to space law. And we’re intentionally doing that with this amazing advisory board, that we’ve hand chosen and asked to be a part of this. Because what we want to do is, let me just backtrack real quick. One of the things that we have all agreed on, that we kind of got sick and tired of, is going to these symposiums or going to these these discussions or conferences, where everyone talks about the same thing. We need to streamline the regs, orbital debris, China, we get it, it’s all bad. There’s no doubt about it and it needs to change.

However, in the meantime, we got to work with what we have. And right now we have the regulations that exist. And that’s where the bootcamp really developed from. And with the boot camp, we have 14 or 15 subjects, it’s kind of like space regulation in a box. That people are going to be able to come to the boot camp, they’re going to learn from experts that have been in this field for decades. And they’re not only going to learn exactly what the regs are. How much sometimes, say licensing costs, the timeframe for these things. They’ll also be able to take an action item and apply it to their business or their field of practice, immediately. And so that’s what we’re really trying to focus on. This isn’t just a conference, this is something, this is an education, this is a training, again, from these high level people. And then at the end of it, we’re offering a certification. And that’s the, like I said, for the commercial space professionals. And that’s where the ACSP comes in and the advisory board. And we’re going to have this first level certification offered after the boot camp, where people can take this. We’re going to have our advisory board, because we didn’t want just us looking at this from one angle, just from our own angle. There’s blind spots everywhere. And so we have such an incredible team from, NOAA to Segi for Blue Origin, when he worked at Blue Origin. like just incredible group of people. And they’re going to take it apart and put it back together. And so when that certification and that exam comes out, it’s gonna be difficult. And people, when they pass it, they’ll have this opportunity and the feeling like, oh, we really challenged ourselves. And it says it on our website, ACSP. It’s a chance to democratize space and the information behind it. And eventually, ACSP is going to start offering different levels of certifications. We’re going to have different modules of different trainings there. And everyone we talked to, it’s so funny, everyone we talked to is like, this is exactly what is needed. Not everyone has time to go get an engineering degree or go staff on the Hill, to learn these regs. And if we can break this down through our network, through the contributions of other people, through ACSP, we really feel like we’re gonna move the needle in a way that’s never been done before.

Bailey Reichelt
Yeah, I think reiterating, kind of, where this just really meets practicality. When I was in house. I know in law school, I learned the word ITAR, International Traffic in Arms Regulations. No one taught me how to apply for an export license. And when I started, you’re like, well, you’re a lawyer, get an export license. I’m like, I have no idea where to begin. So one of the things we’ll be teaching is, how do I even start to know if I need an export license? How do I apply for one? What are the triggering factors? If I’m a government contractor, or want to be a government contractor, there is a litany of questions in [System for Award Management (SAM)], which is the registration platform, that issues the cage. How do I answer those? Well, these are all things that we’re going to be teaching skills for. And I know that when I was in house, I wish someone had told me how these things had implicated one another. So when you get into government contracting, you’re going to be asked to comply with export controls. Or if you’re dealing with foreign investors or foreign employees. Maybe you’re going to be dealing with [Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CIFIUS)]. Maybe you’re going to be dealing with [Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)], which is a part of the Department of the Treasury. They deal with sanctions and things like that. How am I doing due diligence? All of these things intersect each other. And if you don’t know how, or where they intersect, or how much they cost or how long they take, it can ruin your whole contract cost you penalties. Especially, if you have contracts that are sensitive to dates, like launch agreements, or ride share agreements. You could be breaking or in breach of the whole contract, just because you weren’t educated on what the realistic timelines were, for all the different moving parts of your business and your particular mission.

Bryce Kennedy
And the other thing is the bootcamp is hybrid. So for those who can’t come Feb. 21 to 23 in Albuquerque. You can attend online on Zoom and still have the offering for the certification.

 

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