Study predicts vibrant commercial future for space

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Ricky Joseph

New insights from companies in the growing space economy are helping NASA chart a course for the future of commercial human spaceflight in low Earth orbit. Among the companies provided to NASA as part of studies that will inform future NASA policies to support commercial activities that enable a robust economy in low Earth orbit.

NASA has selected the following companies to complete studies on commercializing low Earth orbit and the International Space Station, assessing the potential growth of a low Earth orbit economy and how best to stimulate private demand for commercial manned spaceflight:

  • Axiom Space, LLC, of Houston
  • Blue Origin, LLC, of Kent, Washington
  • The Boeing Company of Houston
  • Deloitte Consulting of Manhattan Beach, California
  • KBRWyle from Houston
  • Lockheed Martin Corporation, of Littleton, Colorado
  • McKinsey & Company, Inc. of Washington, DC
  • NanoRacks, LLC, of Webster, Texas
  • Northrop Grumman of Dulles, Virginia
  • Sierra Nevada Corporation of Louisville, Colorado
  • Space Adventures, Inc., of Vienna, Virginia
  • Maxar Technologies, formerly SSL, Inc., of Palo Alto, California

These companies investigated what a commercially viable industry in low Earth orbit would look like, including commercialization concepts and technical configurations for habitable platforms in low Earth orbit, whether via the International Space Station or a free flight platform; business plans that explore the viability of commercial destinations; and the role of government andof space station evolution in the roadmap to commercialization of low Earth orbit. Observations from these studies revealed many potential markets that could be part of the future ecosystem in low Earth orbit.

The studies identified that commercial "destinations" could profit from many areas: research and development similar to that seen today on the station as from the U.S. National Laboratory's International Space Station; in-space manufacturing of unique materials or products; Video products for entertainment use, including movies, documentaries, and sporting events; sponsorship andmarketing; accommodation for space tourism; assembly in space and maintenance of large structures and satellites; and transportation of people and cargo to and from low Earth orbit.

High freight and crew transportation costs continue to represent a huge barrier to market entry for both business and consumer. One way to reduce transportation costs could be with economies of scale that could be achieved through a larger market. NASA could play a key role in helping to stimulate and facilitate growthmarket by providing access to the space station to catalyze new markets, assist in technology development, and strengthen the expanding industry. Eventually, NASA should be a key customer for future commercially operated destinations in low Earth orbit.

NASA will continue to need low-Earth orbit for microgravity research and testing that will enable the success of the agency's plans to advance to the Moon and Mars, including landing the first woman and the next man on the Moon. Providing ample opportunities for commercial activities on the space station could help catalyze and expand markets, enabling an economicThe ultimate goal of the agency in low Earth orbit is to partner with industry to achieve a robust ecosystem in which NASA is one of many customers purchasing services and resources, at a much lower cost than today.

The International Space Station is a unique orbital laboratory. For more than 18 years, humans have lived and worked aboard the complex conducting thousands of experiments in areas such as human research, biology and physical sciences, as well as advanced technology development. Many of these experiments, conducted through the ISS National Laboratory, have been research anddevelopment for commercial purposes. New opportunities are needed to go beyond research and development, and the station will play an essential role in enabling opportunities for new commercial markets needed to build a sustainable ecosystem in low Earth orbit.[NASA]

Read the full study in English: Results of the Low-Earth Orbit Commercialization Study.

Ricky Joseph is a seeker of knowledge. He firmly believes that through understanding the world around us, we can work to better ourselves and our society as a whole. As such, he has made it his life's mission to learn as much as he can about the world and its inhabitants. Joseph has worked in many different fields, all with the aim of furthering his knowledge. He has been a teacher, a soldier, and a businessman - but his true passion lies in research. He currently works as a research scientist for a major pharmaceutical company, where he is dedicated to finding new treatments for diseases that have long been considered incurable. Through diligence and hard work, Ricky Joseph has become one of the foremost experts on pharmacology and medicinal chemistry in the world. His name is known by scientists everywhere, and his work continues to improve the lives of millions.