Space historian Roger Launius has an interesting post on his blog about  a study he has done into previous cases where the US government and private industry collaborated in a way similar to NASA’s recent commercial partnerships:  Historical Analogies and the Commercial Development of Space – Roger Launius’s Blog

The study investigated six case studies: (1) the development of the transcontinental railroad supported by a unique land grant approach to subsidy, (2) support for the airline industry through legislation, appropriate regulation, and subsidies to grow a robust air transport capability, (3) the regulatory regime put into place with the rise of the telephone industry and the creation of government-sponsored monopoly that eventually had to be broken up, (4) government sponsorship of Antarctic scientific stations that evolved into a public/private partnership over time, (5) the fostering of a range of public works projects and their success or failure over time, and (6) the establishment of scenic and cultural conservation zones in the United States and how to balance economic development with preservation.

With the rise of a range of private sector entrepreneurial firms interested in pursuing space commerce, the process whereby those might be incubated, fostered, and expanded comes to the fore as an important public policy concern in a way never before present in the space age. In the United States, and virtually nowhere else in the world, we are witnessing the convergence of several powerful economic forces. These include the need to restore American capability to reach low-Earth orbit for the servicing of the International Space Station, the rise of a hospitality/tourism/entertainment industry interested in space, the development of expansive remote sensing and other applications in Earth orbit, and the possibilities envisioned for opening commercial space activities in the cis-lunar region.

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