The Space Economy Symposium, an initiative of George Mason University in collaboration with Phillips & Company and hosted by the Space Enterprise Council of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, provided a forum for a robust discussion on the contributions of space to the nationâ€™s economic growth and the role of space in enabling greater national competitiveness in a global economy.
7 Expert Answers for How Big Business Will Spend Cash in Space
Of all the tons of fuel that drives modern space flight, cash is the most critical. That was the stark reality brought front and center on Wednesday at the first-ever Space Business Forum in New York, where leading rocket scientists, military officers and even hedge-fund managers crunched the numbers to illuminate the future of the space industry. From the European influence on suborbital tourism to why the Air Force doesn’t trust private rockets, and from the increasingly outsourced business model at NASA to a place for that other “green” movement, here’s a news analysis of where the power lies.
Challenges Ahead for New Space Investors
“New startups hoping to make their mark on the space industry still face high entry barriers just to cover their initial costs, investors said Wednesday.
“The high cost and risks associated with new commercial ventures, as well as the bureaucratic government hoops they have to jump through, provide substantial barriers for nascent companies aiming for space, experts said during the 2008 Space Business Forum here presented by the Space Foundation, a non-profit advocacy organization.”
SPACE ANGELS PRESS RELEASE
Space Angels Network, LLC, a national network of seed- and early-stage investors focused on aerospace-related ventures, announced today its initial group of â€œFounding Membersâ€â€”individual accredited investors with significant experience in aerospace ventures.
Founding Members include:
â€œSince our Founding Members form the core of our organization by actively helping with strategic advice, deal flow, and membership recruitment, we sought individuals with extensive experience in both angel investing and also aerospace ventures,â€ said Guillermo SÃ¶hnlein, founder and managing director of Space Angels Network. â€œThey play a critical leadership role in screening deals, conducting due diligence, and negotiating terms. We value their time and commitment, and we look forward to working with them as we grow our community of aerospace-focused accredited investors.â€
Spacehab and NASA announced an agreement on Friday to use the International Space Station for research and development aimed at creating commercial products on Earth.
â€œThe finalization of this agreement unlocks an entirely new market for us,â€ said Thomas Pickens III, chairman and CEO of the Webster, Tex.-based company. â€œThe ability to utilize the unique microgravity environment for industrial processing purposes is expected to revolutionize a myriad of industries. We believe the utilization of the ISS as a national lab will have a significant social and economic impact and shows great promise of saving lives and providing thousands of new jobs in the coming years.â€
The work will be done by Spacehab’s BioSpace Technologies subsidiary, which also has partnered with Space Florida to develop multiple vaccine models aboard ISS. The Space Shuttle Discovery will carry a salmonella model when it is launched to the orbiting laboratory. The experiment flew aboard the last shuttle flight in March.
â€œWeâ€™re establishing a space-based, biotech corridor that stretches from the International Space Station to the Space Life Sciences Lab at NASAâ€™s John F. Kennedy Space Center,â€ Steve Kohler, president of Space Florida, said in a press release.
â€œValidating a model for vaccine development on this mission opens the door to help people live healthier lives, build a new industry related to pharmaceutical development, and drive diversity in aerospace economic development,â€ Kohler said.
The X Prize’s Will Pomerantz has some notes from a recent closed-door confab held in Colorado between U.S. Air Force officials and members of the entrepreneurial space community just prior to the National Space Symposium.
The half-day session, co-sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration, gave military and business folks a chance to talk candidly about how to work together. The U.S. Air Force is interested in developing operational space response assets capable of deploying anywhere in the world.
The conclusions reached were fairly basic but sound: the military can’t ask companies for more than they can actually delivery, contracts must be adjusted to the realities faced by entrepreneurs, and businesses need to stay clued in on future military plans. Entrepreneurs must be aware that timing is essential when it comes to snagging government contracts to develop new technologies.
UPDATE: Pomerantz has published Part 2 of his report. The report has almost nothing to do with the RLV summit; it’s mostly about how the National Space Symposium is really cool.
One interesting bit of news that came out of the Space Access ’08 conference in Phoenix involved efforts by Florida to lure Orbital Sciences’ COTS program away from Virginia.
NASA recently awarded the Dulles, Virginia-based company with a $170 million contract to develop commercial transport to the International Space Station under its COTS initiative. Orbital Sciences will operate out of Wallops Island on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
Jim Muncy of PoliSpace told conference attendees that Florida is trying to convince Orbital to move the program south, according to an account of his talk on Rand Simberg’s Transterrestrial Musings blog.
“You should see the list of things that Orbital wants from Florida to get them to move there from Wallops,” Muncy is quoted as saying. Simberg’s post provides no elaboration.
XCOR PRESS RELEASE
Los Angeles, March 26, 2008 â€“ A small California aerospace company today unveiled a new suborbital spaceship that will provide affordable front-seat rides to the edge of space for the millions of people who want to buy a ticket.
The company, XCOR Aerospace, of Mojave, CA, announced that its two-seat Lynx suborbital spaceship will carry people or payloads to where they will experience weightlessness and see the stars above and the Earth and its atmosphere below. This will launch XCOR into the emerging space tourism market, estimated at over a half-billion dollars.
The Lynx will offer affordable access to space for individuals, researchers and educators,â€ said XCOR CEO Jeff Greason. â€œFuture versions of Lynx will offer ever-improving capabilities for scientific and engineering research and commercial applications.
The spaceship, roughly the size of a small private airplane, will first take off in 2010 and will be capable of flying several times each day.
NASA Ames Director Pete Worden was in London, Ontario this week, talking to a group of physics students and faculty at the University of Western Ontario. He predicted that NASA would put astronauts back on the moon by 2020 but that private companies might get there first.
“It’s NASA’s unstated policy that the moon is available for economic activity,” the paper quotes Worden as saying in response to a question about the legal regime for developing the moon.
The London Free Press has the full story.
The X PRIZE Foundation’s Director of Space Projects William Pomerantz discusses how small entrepreneurial companies can partner with larger space firms and government agencies in an article for Ask, NASA’s in-house publication for project management and engineering excellence.
Pomerantz says that although many of the companies who compete in the X PRIZE’s competitions enjoy advantages over larger more traditional aerospace organizations, significant partnership opportunities exist.
“The good news is that, despite the occasional playful bravado of some of the more colorful characters involved in these competitions, all our teams are die-hard supporters of a robust space exploration program and will gladly do their parts. As such, they can function as highly specialized components of the greater aerospace workforce,” Pomerantz writes.
“These small, innovative teams can quickly and cheaply provide services to their larger brethren. Whether it is a Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge team providing a flying platform capable of carrying experimental sensors on dozens of flights a week, or Ansari X PRIZE competitors carrying scientific payloads and their human operators into the blackness of space, or the eventual Google Lunar X PRIZE winners testing systems and returning data that will support NASA’s return to the moon, the entrepreneurial community is poised to help the national space program like never before.”
More than 70 representatives from about 20 space-related businesses and interests lobbied Florida House and Senate offices on Thursday in favor of more state support for space, Florida Today reports.
Facing the end of the shuttle program and increased competition from other states and nations, the group emphasized the important of space exploration to Florida’s economy during the annual Space Day event.
“We want to make legislators aware of the economic importance of the aerospace industry to the entire state, not just to Brevard County,” said ASRC Aerospace’s Pedro Medelius. “It’s especially important now, because other states are starting initiatives to take the business that Florida has traditionally had.”
Space consultant Jeff Krukin has penned an op-ed article for The (Charlotte) News-Observer about recent efforts by him and others to promote North Carolina to the commercial space industry.
Krukin believes that North Carolina, with its Research Triangle and strong universities, is a great for the “NewSpace” companies that are commercial transportation and space tourism.
“The work of the last four years has conclusively shown that North Carolina has a strong business and academic foundation to be a significant force in the space economy,” Krukin writes. “But it isn’t the only state with the necessary resources, and other states are already acting. If you think I’m referring to the traditional ‘space states’ such as California, Florida and Texas, think again. I mean Hawaii, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Virginia and Wisconsin. Is North Carolina doing enough to ensure its place?
The Daytona Beach News-Journal and Orlando Sentinel have have thrown their editorial weight behind citizens who are opposed to building a new commercial launch facility in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge at the Kennedy Space Center.
About 200 residents spoke out against the idea during a recent public hearing. The refuge site is one of several locations being considered. Residents suggested that the new facility be built on a nearby Air Force site that already hosts abandoned launch pads.
“Considering that some 1 million visitors a year trek into the refuge — birders, boaters, fishermen, hunters and hikers by the droves — one would think officials might have measured the potential economic blow to tourism and related loss of jobs from closing parts of the refuge against the 200 jobs and economic prospects of commercial space flight. NASA hasn’t. Interior Department and state officials should,” the Dayton editors wrote.
The Orlando Sentinel editors were a bit more blunt: “What part of the word ‘refuge’ doesn’t NASA understand?”
Meanwhile, Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas credits NASA for holding public hearings and doubts agency officials will build anything in the wildlife refuge. “If anything, it seems as if they are sabotaging the idea,” he wrote.
SpaceX has slipped the first launch of its Falcon 9 vehicle by nine months to June, 2009, according to Florida Today.
The El Segundo, Calif.-based company headed by Internet billionaire Elon Musk is receiving $278 million from NASA to launch three vehicles under its COTS program. COTS is designed to help develop commercial alternatives for cargo and crew delivery to the International Space Station.
Flight Global also has a story that includes comments from Musk blaming the delays on a shift in launch sites from a small Pacific atoll to Cape Canaveral and the “enormous amount of work” required to build a new rocket.
Meanwhile, SpaceX says it has completed qualification testing of its Merlin regeneratively cooled engine for its smaller Falcon 1 rocket, which is scheduled for Spring 2008. Two previous launch attempts of the missile failed.
Florida Today questions the feasibility of a commercial spaceport at Kennedy Space Center in the wake of public hearings where residents spoke against its possible location in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The newspaper wonders whether the project is financially feasible and whether it would have a detrimental impact on tourism and the environment. “[Residents] also offered a good suggestion: Consider building the complex at abandoned launch sites at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station,” the paper writes.
An eclectic group of residents composed of birders, boaters, nudists and former NASA employees pleaded with the space agency not to build private launchpads near a world-renowned wildlife refuge, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
“That you would even consider it boggles my mind,” Wes Biggs of Orlando told NASA representatives during a public hearing. “The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge isn’t just another refuge. It’s one of the jewels of the federal wildlife system, and it is known worldwide.”
NASA wants commercial companies to build new launch facilities at Kennedy Space Center. It is considering several possible locations. Residents urged agency officials to make use of an abandoned Air Force range for the project. However, agency officials said it would be difficult to obtain the land from the military.
Florida Today also has a story about the public hearing.