The Vacation to Space Goes Through Washington

In 2011 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) space shuttle program was retired, leaving the United States without a manned space vehicle. Just as NASA’s capabilities declined, the private sector ramped up its effort to offer private space travel. The budding space tourism industry is rapidly growing.  Private companies are in the process of building shuttles to fly people into space, possibly in the next two to three years. Celebrities are getting on the bandwagon too, with Richard Branson announcing Ashton Kutcher was the 500th person to sign up for a ride on Virgin Galactic’s vehicles. While these companies have ambitious goals to reach space they are also hard at work lobbying the federal government in Washington.

The emergence of a new industry opened up a lot of questions over its regulation.    As such, the companies leading the private space travel industry spend money and resources lobbying the federal government.  The companies and the lobbyists for this new industry are leaving nothing to chance, as they work to ensure they have the support of Congress and the federal government.  The report highlights two of the seven major companies in the industry that have been lobbying the government in recent years.

2012 Update (added 5/22/2012):

  • Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) spent $240,000 on lobbying in Q1 2012
  • Orbital Sciences Corporation spent $65,000 on lobbying in Q1 2012
  • SpaceX hired one new lobbying firm in 2012, Polispace.  SpaceX is represented by James A.M. Muncy who is a former staffer for the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology – Subcommittee on Research and Science Education as well as a Legislative Assistant dealing with Space issues for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).  Polispace represents space focused clients and their two other clients are Xcor Aerospace and Commercial Spaceflight Federation.


In 2011, the top lobbying space tourism companies Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) and Orbital Sciences Corporation spent a total of $3,900,000 on their lobbying activity.

  • SpaceX spent $2,940,000 in 2011
  • Orbital Space Technologies spent $960,000 in 2011
  • Together both companies employed 9 lobbyists
  • SpaceX PAC has made $49,915 in donations in the 2011-2012 election cycle.


Founded in 2002, SpaceX has been awarded funding by NASA to fly supplies to the International Space Station. In the future, SpaceX intends to offer orbiting Earth flights to planetary missions.

In-House Revolving Door Lobbyists in 2011

Caryn Schenewerk

  • Deputy Associate Director – Legislative Affairs (Office of Management and Budget (OMB)) (2010–2011)
  •  Legislative Director – Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) (2008 – 2008)
  • Associate Staff, Representative Doggett – Committee on Budget (2007 – 2007)
  • Ways and Means Counsel – Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) (2005–2007)

Lawrence H. Williams

  • Special Assistant, Public Affairs – Congressional Affairs (National Telecommunications and Information Administration) (1994-1994)
  • Director, Public Affairs – Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information (Department of Commerce) (1993-1993)

Outside Lobbying Firms Hired in 2011

SpaceX hired five lobbying firms and 15 lobbyists to lobby on their behalf, spending $390,000 with these groups in 2011.

Name Amount
Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP  < $5,000
Grayloeffler, LLC (Formerly The Amani Group, LLC)  $90,000
Heather Podesta + Partners, LLC  $50,000
Prasam  $80,000
Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates  $170,000

Political Contributions made by the SpaceX PAC

SpaceX PAC has made $49,915 in donations in the 2011-2012 election cycle.

Beneficiary Candidate Amount Connected to
Alamo PAC $3,000 The Good Government Fund
Schiff For Congress Rep. Adam Schiff (D CA-29) $3,000
Bill Nelson For U S Senate Sen. Bill Nelson (D FL) $2,500
Committee to Re-Elect Congressman Dana Rohrabacher Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R CA-46) $2,500
Montanans For Tester Sen. Jon Tester (D MT) $2,500
Rubio Victory Committee Rubio, Marco $2,500 NRSC
McCarthy Victory Fund Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R CA-22) $2,315 NRCC, Mc PAC
Adam Smith For Congress Committee Rep. Adam Smith (D WA-9) $2,000 Red to Blue Majority Fund
Culberson For Congress Rep. John Culberson (R TX-7) $2,000
Dutch Ruppersberger For Congress Committee Rep. C. A. Ruppersberger (D MD-2) $2,000
Palazzo For Congress Palazzo, Steven Mccarty $2,000  Lucky 13 Joint Fundraising Committee
Scott Brown For US Senate Committee Inc Brown, Scott P $2,000
Kay Granger Campaign Fund Rep. Kay Granger (R TX-12) $1,100
Bill Flores For Congress Flores, Bill $1,000 Texas Young Guns Victory Fund
Citizens to Elect Rick Larsen Rep. Rick Larsen (D WA-2) $1,000 Frontline Democrats
Fattah For Congress Rep. Chaka Fattah (D PA-2) $1,000
Feinstein For Senate Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D CA) $1,000
Friends of Lois Capps Rep. Lois Capps (D CA-23) $1,000
Gallegly For Congress Rep. Elton Gallegly (R CA-24) $1,000
Giffords For Congress Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D AZ-8) – Former $1,000
Kaptur For Congress Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D OH-9) $1,000 Kaptur For Congress
Ken Calvert For Congress Committee Rep. Ken Calvert (R CA-44) $1,000
Kissell For Congress Rep. Larry Kissell (D NC-8) $1,000 Jared Polis Victory Fund 2012
Lewis For Congress Committee Rep. Jerry Lewis (R CA-41) $1,000
Marco Rubio For US Senate Rubio, Marco $1,000
McCaul For Congress, Inc Rep. Michael McCaul (R TX-10) $1,000
Randy Hultgren For Congress Hultgren, Randy $1,000 Freshman Agriculture Republican Member
Thornberry For Congress Committee Rep. Mac Thornberry (R TX-13) $1,000 Thornberry For Congress Committee
Whitehouse For Senate Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D RI) $1,000
Garamendi For Congress Rep. John Garamendi (D CA-10) $500

Recent Issues Lobbied in 2011

  • Aerospace – “Commercial, civil and defense space transportation; Department of Defense Authorization; Intelligence Authorization; FAA Authorization; NASA Appropriations; Department of Defense Appropriations; Intelligence Appropriations.”
  • Science & Technology – “H.R. 2596, Making Appropriations for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, and Science, and Related Agencies for the Fiscal Year Ending September 30, 2012, and for Other Purposes, House and Senate, Title III; H.R. 2112, Consolidated and Further Appropriations Act, FY 2012, Division B, Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, House and Senate, Title III. ; Specific issues: Space Launch Vehicles, Space Cargo Transportation, Manned Space Flight, Satellites.”

Orbital Space Corporation

Orbital Space Corporation specializes in small and medium-sized space rockets for research, security missions, deep space exploration. The company has been called a department store for space. Orbital also provides a commercial cargo ship for the International Space Station.

In-House Revolving Door Lobbyists in 2011

Edward Samuel Goldstein

  • Writer / Editor- Office of Public Affairs (2007 – 2008)
  • Speechwriter- Office of Public Affairs (2003 – 2006)
  • Speech Writer- Office of Public Affairs (2002 – 2002)
  • U.S. Senate Staff thru 8/08- Offices of Kyl, Sessions (2010)

Todd Stiefler

  • Military Legislative Assistant-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) (2007 – 2008)
  • Legislative Assistant -Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) (2006 – 2006)

Outside Lobbying Firms Hired in 2011

Orbital Space Corporation has employed one outside lobbying firm, Carliner Strategies LLC, with one lobbyist.

Political Contributions

Orbital Space Corporation does not have a political action committee.

Recent Issues Lobbied in 2011

  • Aerospace – “National Defense Authorization Act for FY11 (H.R. 2647/S.1390) all provisions related to Missile Defense, Navy Targets, Air Force RDT&E, Defense Wide RDT&E, and Air Force procurement; Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 2847), all provisions related to NASA, Science, Aeronautics and Exploration for FY11<br>Appropriations for the DoD for fiscal year ending September 30, 2010 and for other purposes. (Bill No. H.R. 3326); Appropriations for the DoD for fiscal year ending September 30, 2012 (Bill No. H.R. 2219); NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (Bill No. H.R. 5781), all provisions related to Science, Aeronautics and Exploration.”
  • Science & Technology – “Department of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, all provisions related to NASA, Science, Aeronautics and Exploration for FY11 (H.R. 2847) & FY12 (H.R. 2112); NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (H.R. 5781), all provisions related to Science, Aeronautics and Exploration”

Other Space Tourism Companies That Have Lobbied

  • Boeing:  Famous for its work on commercial and military aircraft, Boeing is also a significant service provider to NASA. Boeing’s work includes the Space Shuttle, Military Satellite Systems and Air Force One.  The company has plans to send tourists into space.
    • Boeing spent $18,145,000 on lobbying and employed 101 lobbyists in 2011.
  • Excalibur Almaz: Based in the British Isles of Man, Excalibur Almaz intends to offer space travel for exploration, research, and science. Some of their targeted customers include private enterprises, educational organizations and international governments. Flights will last up to one week and allow a crew of two or more people plus one commander.
    • Excalibur Almaz spent $80,000 on lobbying and employed 4 lobbyists when they last lobbied in 2010.
  • Sierra Nevada Corp: Founded in 1963, Sierra Nevada Corporation specializes in Electronics, Avionics, and Communications. The company focuses in areas such as Renewable Energy, Telemedicine, Nanotechnology, Microsatellites and Human Space Flight. SNC was recently awarded a contract by the U.S. Military to create mobile air traffic control towers and solar powered airfield lighting system.
    • Sierra Nevada Corp spent $224,100 on lobbying and employed eleven lobbyists in 2011.
  • XCOR Aerospace: A privately-held company, XCOR Aerospace focuses on space travel development such as such as  reusable launch ships , rocket engines and rocket propulsion systems. In 2001, they became the first company to successfully build and  fly a manned rocket-powered aircraft.
    • XCOR Aerospace spent $30,000 on lobbying and employed one lobbyist in 2011.
  • Virgin Galactic: In 2004, Richard Branson founded Virgin Galactic, a company within his larger Virgin Group. Currently its offerings  are projected to be sub-orbital spaceflights, suborbital space science missions and small satellite orbital launches. Future plans include manned orbital spaceflights as well.
    • Virgin Galactic paid less than $5,000 and had no lobbyists employed when they last lobbied in 2009.

Editor’s Note: This post was updated on 5/22/2012 to reflect the update of SpaceX’s Q1 2012 lobbying.

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