NewSpace 2013: New Technologies for Long-term Human Presence in Space

NewSpace 2013 Panel Discussion

Technological Capstone: Spinning In Technologies to Sustain
Long-term Human Presence in Space


  • Bruce Pittman — Moderator, NASA Ames Space Portal
  • Jason Dunn —  Co-founder, Made in Space
  • John Cumbers — synthetic biologist
  • Dennis Wingo — President, Skycorp


  • Back in 1961, we were making things out of whole cloth
  • 50 years later, now we have a tremendous amount of technology out there
  • Spin-in technologies – not spin off
  • A number of different organizations are conducting promising research on different forms of cold and hot fusion
  • Possible to replace the radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTGs) used in spacecraft with fusion generators
  • One company called Trialpha has managed to raise $140 in venture capital to pursue its project
  • One of Trialpha’s backers is actor Harry Hamlin, best known for his role on “LA Law”

Jason Dunn
Made in Space

  • Not as straightforward or as easy as we thought it would be
  • Idea started at NASA Marshall – working on it during the late 1990’s
  • Marshall team believed technology was ready in 1999 and let’s put it on the space station
  • However, the tech wasn’t quite ready and neither was ISS at the time
  • Atmosphere today is much different toward 3D printing
  • President Obama talked about 3D printing in the State of the Union
  • NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden envisioned a time when they just sent additive manufacturing equipment and making everything there
  • When Made in Space started in 2010, the technology wasn’t even where it is today
  • Made in Space has 20 people working on team now
  •  Former astronaut Dan Berry involved with company
  • At first, thought they could take a 3-D printer and just modify it
  • 400 parabolas and $1 million plus investment by NASA
  • lots of mods to make it work, and then meet the NASA specs
  • needed to replace/modify a lot of parts
  • under contract to fly the ISS Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF) to ISS via SpaceX cargo flight no. 5
  • Capable of building up to 30 percent of the space parts on the station
  • Made in Space interested in doing more than just making spare parts – company wants to enable space manufacturing
  • Quite literally you can email a product to space by sending the specs up and making the part there
  • 82 percent of failures on station could be printed
  • focused on plastics and composites first, then electronics and more sophisticated manufacturing technology in the future

Dennis Wingo

  • When lunar orbit rendezvous was chosen for Apollo, Wernher von Braun feared they reached the “Kilroy was here” moment
  • Without an infrastructure in space, it would be too easy for politicians to cancel program
  • Wingo: the heavy lift monster booster is a relic of the Cold War
  • After Challenger blew up, NASA redesigned SS Freedom lost the truss to be used for assembly
  • Group at Huntsville that came up with a lot of assembly plans – Goldin demanded they destroy the plans, but they hid them until he left
  • ISS is an amazing facility
  • ISS can be used for tech demonstrations – can assemble spaceships (lunar lander), space tug, etc. up there
  • Build the lander for moon
  • build a large construction site
  • Assemble a Mars cycler in space
  • Tremendous opportunity in path not taken by NASA
  • If NASA were getting the same budget as in 1960’s, it would be $130 billion/yr

John Cumbers

  • self-replicating machines for space settlements
  • we have these things on earth called biology – giant sequoia puts out seeds
  • synthetic biology promises the same thing in space
  • synthetic biology is the next step in biological engineering
  • trying to make biology a robust, engineerable discipline
  • “Over the next 20 years, synethic genomics is going to become the standard for making anything.” — Craig Venter, 2007
  • $300B is size of US bio-economy – 2 percent of GDP
  • $300B is about the size of the space industry
  • Cost of launching anything to LEO is about $5,350 per kilogram
  • Robotic infrastructure on moon to extract materials from moon and a bio-reactor to create the food
  • Can beam up new sequences to produce other foods and materials
  • Synbiobeta meeting later this year in San Francisco

Jason Dunn

  • zero gravity allowed us to iterate quickly
  • did hundreds of zero g parabolas so they could keep making changes….
  • quickest that NASA has seen anything go to station to that area (microgravity glove box)


  • Took five weeks to fly a payload to ISS – device for the first television commercial filmed on the station
  • Trying to fly an external payload on station – it has been hell to find the docs he needs, even with support from top of ISS office and top of NASA
  • NASA is building a mega booster even though it doesn’t want to do it. Doesn’t want to do on-orbit assembly


  • NASA doesn’t care about $6 million worth of methane being vented from ISS, but Bob Bigelow probably will….


  • Giggle factor with space tourism went away until Dennis Tito flew to ISS — first space tourist
  • That will go away once platforms are up there to supplement ISS – DragonLab, bigelow stations
  • The first place we mine in space will be satellites – lots of high grade metals, etc.
  • The problem is how to make a buck at it – go make a business case for it to investors