Space Investing Section 2 - The Frontier of Space
Moving a Mountain of Platinum
Here we see a small asteroid containing platinum
group elements (PGEs) harvested in preparation
for ore extraction on the Moon. A ring of thrusters
guides the asteroid for release at a specific
point in the free return orbit from the Main Asteroid
Belt. Courtesy Phil
We continue with our overview of space business
and investing with a look at space businesses
outside of the conventional telecommunications
and launch industries.
The following two industries are now "off
sensing is a promising area with many possible
commercial applications but is still struggling
to grow into a industry that relies on commercial
markets (e.g. agricultural services, real estate
development planning, etc.) instead of government
and military markets.
Positioning (GPS) is a space-related business
whose activity is on the ground but uses signals
from government satellites. Commercial growth
has not been as fast as initially hoped but
in the past few years has accelerated with applications
such as cell phone location systems.
has not yet seen a successful business model.
The dream of most space activists is that some
sort of commercial space business will emerge
that will pay for human spaceflight and make irrelevant
vs. robots argument.
could become the killer app that finally makes
human spaceflight self-sustaining. Until Dennis
Tito's flight in 2001, even most space advocates
considered tourist excursions to orbit to be many
decades in the future. But there has been a big
change of attitude. Paying customers have continued
to go to the ISS (after a break due to the Columbia
accident) and most observers believe that several
companies will start to offer suborbital
space rides for paying customers in the 2010-2011
We discuss below
further aspects of commercial human spaceflight
Almost every concept about commercial space would
be greatly enhanced if access to space became
significantly cheaper. In fact, many of the most
interesting space businesses will not be feasible
until launch costs fall a whole lot. There are
many companies working on lower cost space transport.
We discuss those in these sections:
Space Show - Dr. David Livingston interviews
leading figures in the development of outer-space
commerce and space tourism. Archives from weekly
show since June 2001. Previously known as Business
Without Boundaries. Recent
and Upcoming shows.
For exploration purposes, the humans
versus robots debate has been going on since the
start of the space age. Most space advocates, however,
don't see space as just for science but as a place for
humans to live and settle. To initiate and support humans
in space, there need to be commercial services and products
created there. Here we look at some possible businesses
for people in space.
In the 1980s there were many who predicted that the
manufacturing in space of speciality products like protein
crystals, pharmaceuticals, and microelectronics would
grow into a huge industry by the turn of the Century.
Microgravity provides for a number of interesting effects,
such as allowing some types of fragile but scientifically
and industrially important crystals to grow to much
larger sizes than on the surface of the earth.
Unfortunately, the lack of cheap and frequent access
to space greatly slowed research in this area. Even
in the best of circumstances on earth, it can take years
of R&D to turn a promising research into goods to
sell. Furthermore, any space based manufacturing operatioin
in space would need for much lower cost transport to
and from orbit to have a chance at becoming a profitable
Despite all that, there are in fact some promising
developments with microgravity R&D, especially in
the bioscience area. For example, it turns out that
microbes grow extremely well in micro-g and can express
genes that were suppressed on the ground. This may lead
to the selection of particular featires of interest.
In one case, it is being used to investigate vaccine
developent in space. The company Astrogenetix,
a business unit of Astrotech
(formerly Spacehab), has been formed to pursue the commercialization
of this. For more information, see these reports
This company seeks to use water resources at
the lunar polar regions to supply fuel for developlent
of cislunar infrastructure.
When Dennis Tito flew to the ISS in 2001, it produced
an enormous boost for the promoters of commercial space
tourism. Previously, the concept was considered a wild
fantasy. However, even with the subsequent flight by
Mark Shuttleworth, the high cost of such flights still
made it seem an extremely limited market.
However, in 2004 Burt Rutan's team won the the X PRIZE
and set off a new race to become the first company to
offer suborbital spaceflight rides, which while still
not cheap ($100k-$250k), will involve a much bigger
market. As of the fall of 2005, there were around 300
people who had already place deposits or paid the full
amount to companies like Virgin Galactic and Space Adventures
for rides as soon as they became available. Virgin Galactic
said they had already collect over $10M and the flights
for the first 2 years are already booked.
It is hoped that the suborbital business will incrementally
improve spaceflight transportation and eventuually offer
low cost access to orbit, as well. The RLV
& Space Transport News weblog follows developments
in the area of commercial space access.
Space Tourism - See this dedicated section for
lots more information on tourism and the companies
involved in it.
Technologies Inc. – We get you into space.™ -
"OneSpace Technologies Inc. is a new company
in the business of private human spaceflight for consumers
and corporate customers. OneSpace is creating a consumer
mass market of millions of people in the Solar System
through offering consulting and opportunities to invest
in a spaceline and other services in orbit. These
OneSpace services are pioneering the way to not just
make space more accessible, but to eventually enable
bus-fare prices to get to orbit by economy of scale.
Within the space industry, one of the fastest growing
sectors of the global economy, OneSpace creates safe
and practical ways to get people into space now."
Reusable Space Transports
Several companies are developing reusable or partially
reusable space transport systems. Here are a few. (See
Countdown section for longer list.)
Owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the company's
first goal is a reusable suborbital vehicle. However,
it is also building a crew module that would launch
on a ULA Atlas V for NASA's Commercial Crew Program.
They are also developing a reusable rocket on
which to launch the crew module.
SNC was a space components business until it
bought SpaceDev, which brought it the reusable
Chaser crew vehcile project. They also build
the hybrid rocket motors for Virgin Galactic's
Developed and has flown the Falcon 1 and Falcon
9 rockets. First commercial company to send a
spacecraft to dock with the International Space
Station. Plan is to develop reusable versions
of the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets and the
Dragon spacecraft. They have been testing vertical
takeoff and landing of a prototype reusable first
stage booster called Grasshopper at their test
facility in McGregor, Texas.
A new class of fully reusable, fast-turnaround, low
cost vehicles for accessing suborbital space (~100Km
and higher) will be going into operation in the 2010-2012
time frame. Companies like Armadillo Aerospace, Blue
Origin, Masten Space Systems, Virgin Galactic, XCOR,
and others have begun building and/or testing such vehicles.
The target markets include
space tourism, military reconnaissance, educational,
science and technology research applications. (Some
of the companies like Armadillo and Masten will provide
unmanned vehicles initially but they plan to move to
manned 2nd-gen vehicles.)
In some cases, the companies will focus just on building
the vehicles and let other companies use the vehicles
for such services.
As commercial space flights become common for suborbital
and orbital operations, companies will need to hire
experts in flying space vehicles, in running experments
and operating equipment during such flights, etc. There
are now companies forming to offer such services.
Hire this firm to provide astronauts to carry out
your experiments on a suborbital space flight and
eventually on orbital flights.
Aerospace Training & Research (NASTAR) Center
This facility in Bucks County, Pennsylvania offers
"state-of-the-art equipment and professional
instructors to train space travelers how to cope with
the effects of sustained elevated G exposure, altitude
exposure, and spatial disorientation."
"Waypoint 2 Space provides sub-orbital and orbital
space flight participant training utilizing a methodology
which provides screening, orientation, and training.
The program incorporates self-study, lecture, and
practical simulations creating competencies exhibited
during launch, sub-orbital, and orbital operations
Space Suits & Life
Standard NASA space suits can cost millions of dollars
and they usually must be customized to some extent for
each astronaut. Low cost alternatives are needed for
Genesis I - launched July
Geneis II - launched June
Galaxy - canceled in favor
of going straight to Sundancer
Sundancer - planned launch
BA-330 - launch in 2015
and docking with two Sundancer modules
There has only been very limited success in getting
companies to subsidize microgravity experiments on the
ISS. The high costs of access and of operations on the
station have prevented the projects from getting very
far. See the ISS
NASA signed agreements with a company called Dreamtime
to exploit the multimedia possiblies on the ISS but
the firm went bankrupt. SpaceHab
signed an agreement with the Russian Energia company
to develop the "Enterprise" module, which
would be dedicated to multimedia and other commericial
activities but that project also seemed to go into limbo.
Boeing once announced plans to convert a spare Russian
module to a commercial module but that also never got
off the ground.
However, independent projects to develop space habitats
has made considerable progress, especially that of Bigelow.
Below we list some of these projects.
Aerospace This company is developing plans for a space
tourism infrastructure that includes orbital hotels.
Owner of Budget Suites of America, a $600 million (est.)
privately held company, Robert Bigelow is planning a
long term project to develop space tourism with a committement
of several hundred million dollars.
Their first prototype module - Genesis
I - was successfully launched on July 12, 2006.
II was launched on June 28, 2007.
In August of 2007, they announced that instead of launching
the intermediate prototype Galaxy module in 2008, they
would do only ground studies with it and instead accelerate
development and flight of the Sundancer crew capable
module. The current plan is to begin in 2014 the assembly
of a habitat cluster with two Sundancer modules and
one BA-330 module.
Price plan as given by Robert Bigelow in April 2007:
A full-scale module, with 300 cubic meters of volume,
a Rocket Scientist service answers "questions
on Bigelow Aerospace, Genesis I and II, Mission Control
and anything else related to our company and spaceflight".
The Bigelow inflatable structures technology derived
from NASA's Transhab
project. However, the company had to do considerable
R&D to move the technology from its early stage
to flight status. For example, they did lots of testing
of the different materials and combinations to prevent
micrometeorite and orbital debris punctures. They had
their own hypervelocity gun that could fire projectiles
at up to 7km/sec at samples. The work led, for example,
to this patent: Bigelow
- Orbital debris shield - Patent 7204460.
The company sponsored the America's Space Prize, which
would have awarded $50M to a US team that successfully
flew a reusable orbital manned vehicle by 2010. However,
the program was dropped when no firms entered the competition.
Instead, the company now offers a large contract to
the first company that can provide crew transport to
the Bigelow habitats: Bigelow
Aerospace to offer $760 million for spaceship - New
Scientist - Oct.25.07
Previously, Bigelow sponsored the Bigelow Prize competition
to reward those who helped " the promotion and/or
use of space for private enterprise purposes without
This venture is based on the Isle of Man and is led
by Art Dula. They will use an updated version of the
Almaz reusable spacecraft. They are negotiating with
various launch vehicle suppliers to put it into orbit.
The Soviet Almaz program referred to an elaborate spacecraft
system that included a capsule (reusable return vehicle
or RRV), various types of service modules, an orbital
habitat and ground facilities. The TKS
spacecraft includes the reusable
capsule and a conical
tower above it that includes parachutes, attitude
control propulsion, etc. The three person capsule connects
to a service module and can be accessed via a hatch
through the heat shield. Dula says that they are currently
developing a new "small" service module (SM) with a
European firm. This initial SM will not have a docking
mechanism to attach to orbital habitats.
After working in stealth mode for several years, the
firm went public on August 18.09 with a press release
describing their plans and opening an elaborate website.
SpaceHab was the first, and so far only, hardware company
to make a profitable business from manned spaceflight
activities. (Space Adventures sponsorship of ISS tourist
trips is apparently profitable but they didn't build
hardware.) It was formed completely with private investment
and risked its own funds to
"develop, own and operate pressurized habitable
modules that provide space-based laboratory research
facilities and cargo services aboard the U.S. Space
In the first round of the COTS competition in 2006,he
company proposed its Apex module system, but they did
not win a contract. In late 2007, the company led a
team that submitted a proposal to NASA for the second
round of the COTS program to provide commercial cargo
resupply for the ISS. They became one of four finalists
but lost to Orbital Sciences. Their system wa based
around the ARCTUS spacecraft modules that could be launched
on any of several rockets. Previously, the company had
proposed its own commerical module - Enterprise
- for the International Space Station but that project
never proceeded past the conceptual design stage.
With the end of the Shuttle program approaching and
with the loss some important contract work, the firm
faced severe problems and saw its stock price plumment.
Thomas B. Pickens (son of famous oil man T. Boone Pickens)
took charge of the company in 2007 and set about to
MirCorp was a collaboration of several western investors
and the Russian RSC Energia company. The company intended
to commercialize the Mir space station. It backed the
first privately funded manned spaceflight when it funded
a Soyuz mission to Mir.
The company believed that an orbital facility could
provide several revenue sources:
Advertising - e.g. company logos on the outside
of the modules, commercializes filmed in the station,
Microgravity R& D sponsored by governments
Space media and internet portal like SpaceHab
and Dreamtime. They had promising discussions with
the producer of the Survivor reality TV show about
a similar show aboard Mir.
Satellite launching & service - small
satellites could be assembled, tested and launched
from Mir (assuming their desired orbits were accessible.)
This would avoid the expense and complications of
the hardening necessary for ground launches. Also,
many satellite failure occur early in the mission
so the on orbit testing could avoid this.
Tourism - see the Space
Tourism section for the latest news on
MirCorps tourism efforts. One passenger has already
However, the dot.com and telecom downturn in 2001 depleted
the resources of the company and of potential investors
and it could not prevent the de-orbiting of Mir. The
company turned to using the International Space Station
and to developing its own module but these projects
did not go anywhere.
See the discussion
at Transterrestrial Musings of my retrospective
(Feb.8.04) on Dwayne Day's article Chasing
profits in the void: MirCorp's economic success highly
unlikely by Dwayne A. Day - Florida Today - June.16.00.
Mir-Corp supported the Xero service that would
have provided parabolic flights out of a base in Kiruna
in northern Sweden but that project has apparently folded.
Founded by the late James Benson in 1997, SpaceDev began
with a serious effort to build a business based on exploring
and mining asteroids. However, it could never convince
NASA to follow a data purchase exploration model. So
the company switched to a focus on low cost satellites
The company gradually built up a substantial business
via contracts with companies such as Orbital Sciences,
Australian government/university organization to build
a micro-satellite, NASA for a university research satellite,
In 1998 the firm bought the rights to the hybrid propulsion
technology developed by AMROC. They later won the contract
to provide the hybrid motor for the SpaceShipObne vehicle
that won the X PRIZE in 2004.
Satellite Technology Ltd.
This British firm is a spinoff from the highly productive
student satellite program at Surry University. SSTL
has launched several commercial microsats and is doing
In 2008 the shares owned by Surry Univ. were purchased
by the giant European EADS Astrium aerospace conglomerate.
However, Astrium has promised to let SSTL continue to
operate in the same manner that it has been.
To develop and support an in-space
infrastructure, a space tug vehicle of one kind or another
will eventually be required for economic operations.
Such vehicles remain permanently in space. Their jobs
include boosting spacecraft to their desired orbit,
bring cargo and crew modules in to dock with a space
station, bring a satellite to a station for repair,
moving fuel tanks at an orbiting fuel depot, etc. The
first such vehicles are now under development.
Ken Harvey and Allen Herbert (Jaka
Consulting) along with Jayfus T. Doswell (Juxtopia)
formed the company Phezu Space, LLC in 2010 to pursue
development of in-space service vehicles. They
describe the firm as follows:
Phezu’s (pronounced fay•zoo) mission is to be the
leading commercial space research & development and
manufacturing company that will design and produce
the best and most reliable orbital service and transportation
vehicles. The company will initially focus on developing
a full-service, semi-automated space-based servicing
vehicle that will provide service and support to spacecraft,
satellites and other orbital entities outside and
inside earth’s orbital sphere. Phezu’s in-space service
vehicle’s capabilities will include refueling, vehicle
towing and maintenance. Targeted customers will include
civilian, military, commercial and government entities
and specifically the burgeoning space tourism industry.
“Phezu’s space service vehicles will be like having
a full service gas station in space. We will be able
to refuel, service and tow space vehicles so that
they may fulfill their mission. This is a great opportunity
to get in on the ground floor of the commercial space
industry that is positioned to take off just like
the internet industry,” says Allen Herbert, President
and CEO of Phezu Space, LLC. “With Black unemployment
at 16%, almost double the national rate, it is important
that African American entrepreneurs are on the cutting
edge of new and innovative industries. We hope Phezu
can be an inspiration for other African American innovators
looking to start IT, environmental and aerospace companies.”
Vivisat ATK and
LLC formed this company in 2011 to fly a space servicing
spacecraft that attaches to satellites to extends their
ViviSat provides in-orbit satellite life extension
and protection services. ViviSat solutions will enable
satellite operators to significantly extend satellite
mission length, activate new markets, drive asset
value and protect their franchises.
Satellite Services/Orbital Recovery
As discussed in the Geostationary
section, the big money makers in the space business
are the communications satellites in the GEO orbit around
the equator. Many of these huge birds are still functioning
well when they run out the fuel needed to do the station
keeping propulsion to maintain their location.
The company Orbital Recovery was formed in 2002 to
develop a spacecraft that would rendevous and attach
itself to such derelict spacecraft and provide station
keeping functions. The company's founders included Walt
Anderson, the well known telecommunications mogul
and space investor (see Space
Angels), and also Dennis
Wingo, who also runs SkyCorp (see below.)
This could extend the lives of the comsats for several
more years and save the companies that own them hundreds
of millions of dollars otherwise needed to buy new satellites.
The company is apparently defunct due to an inability
to raise sufficient capital.
- proposed in 2010 an orbital servicing spacecraft
that could re-fuel GEO satellites. In the spring of
2011 MDA announced an anchor tenant agreement with
Intelsat. However, the agreement depended on MDA also
gaining other customers, particularly the US govt.
When no Dod or NASA contract was forthcoming, Intelsat
dropped out of the deal 2012.
This small company attempted to develop a standard set
of container spacecraft that could launch on many different
rockets and would be used to deliver cargo to the ISS
or a Bigelow habitat. The company included several space
activists including Charles E. Miller, founder of ProSpace
and David W. Anderman, a director of Space
Frontier Foundation. Walt
Anderson was also an early advisor.
For the second round COTS competition that took
place in late 2007, CSI teamed with Space Systems
Loral and their plan included the use of Loral's large
1300 satellite bus as a space tug. The tug would dock
with containers placed into orbit and take them to
the ISS. The tug could be repeatedly refueled and
has an operational lifetime of 10 years.
(or GEORING) - a collaboration of European companies
developing a system called HERMES,
which would provide "On-Orbit Servicing for Satellites".
The system includes several different spacecraft that
provide capabilities ranging from orbital refueling
to station-keeping tasks.
The companies have agreed to cooperate on the development
of innovative solutions for extending the lifetime
of ARABSAT satellites and for providing the capability
to receive fuel replenishment in orbit. ARABSAT
will provide material and knowledge assets to fine-tune
the services of GEORING to its own particular satellites
and needs. GEORING will focus in priority on the
needs of ARABSAT for on-orbit servicing.
SkyCorp Skycorp was founded by Dennis
Wingo to develop the capabilities to assemble
and launch satellites from the International Space Station
and other orbiting platforms.
On orbit assembly could allow for much cheaper satellites
since they would not have to be hardened for the rigors
of ground launch. Furthermore, the sats could be turned
on and checked out before release into orbit.
Most satellites that fail usually do it in this first
phase after launch when they open their solar arrays,
antennas, etc. and something gets stuck. By doing this
at the station under supervision, it would be possible
to bring them back in for repair if there was a problem.
SkyCorp believes such an approach could reduce the
price for a Teledesic scale LEO constellation by a factor
The feasibility of mining asteroids for useful materials
took a big step forward in April of 2012 when the company
Resources made its debut. Founded by well know space
entrepreneurs Eric Anderson (Space
Adventures) and Peter Diamandis (X-PRIZE)
founded the compnay, which is backed by Charles Simonyi,
James Cameron, and other moguls. They will work incrementally,
starting with LEO space telescopes to search for Near
Earth Objects (NEO) of interest and then send probes
to investigte promising objects. The third stage will
attempt extraction technques.
24, 2012 - the NewSpace Log offers links to materials
concerning the debut of the company
Exploration & Development
We put a total of twelve people on the
Moon more than three decades ago and NASA now proposes
to go back to the Moon by 2020.
However, it's possible commercial companies
might get there first or at least play a substantial
role in NASA's program. A number of ventures are in
the works to send first unmanned spacecraft and then
people to the Moon.
Transorbital got enormous publicity back
in 2002 when it received licenses for its spacecraft
to go to the Moon to send back HDTV of the surface and
deliver a time capsule with digital messages and tokens
from the public.
This startup aimed for the moon with a low-cost lunar
orbiter - TrailBlazer - that would provide high-resolution
video on order. A later mission will place a lander
- Electra - on the moon.
The company has been defunct for several years, apparently
unable to raise funds to build and launch its spacecraft.
LunarCorp Unfortunately, LunarCorp was dissolved. Former
president, David Gump, is now CEO of Transformational
Space Corp. Nevertherless, it is of historical interest
and a similar project will probably arise again.
LunarCorp's central aim was to develop Lunar rovers
that could be used for research but also for entertainment
& education via remote control at amusement parks,
museums, planetariums, etc.
Company advisors included Buzz Aldrin and Alan Binder,
who directed the Lunar Prospector mission, and it worked
closely with famous robotist Red Whittaker of the Robotics
Institute at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh.
They are also worked on developing a project to send
rovers to the Lunar poles to examine the ice deposits
Tthey tried to develop a Lunar Defense arcade
game in collaboration with Entropy
Engineering. and a lunar landing simulator for museums
and planetariums based on the arcade game platform.
One success for the firm was a sponsorship deal with
Radio Shack. But it was not enough to pay for the entire
Applied Space Resources (ASR) - This company folded
several years ago. ASR planned to send aspacecraft
to the moon and to return a sample of the surface
regolith. The goal was to sell lunar samples both
to researchers and to the general public.
Memorabilia in Space
Sending coins, medallions, stamps and other items into
space and bringing them back as souveniers has been
going on since the earliest days of manned spaceflight.
artifacts are a popular segment of the space
Now some are trying to make flying items in space as
a business all on its own. Space and sci-fi related
items will get an added cachet if they are certified
to have been in space.
TOSPACE - A now defunct company that specialized
in sending packages of items into high altitude suborbital
and also orbital space. Unfortunately, the availablity
of rocket rides was too sparse and the compay was
Payload Consumer/Educational Spaceflight Companies
These companies specialize in taking very small payloads
with personal materials and educational projects to
near space primarily but eventually to space.
Sending the remains of someone into space has great
symbolic appeal to many people, especially if that someone
had a particular love of space while alive.
Services Inc. - Memorial Spaceflights (Previously
- a pioneer of the space funeral business. Small portions
of the cremated remains of individuals are launched
into orbit in a small spacecraft. Nearly a dozen flights
have occurred as of Sept. 2012. The initial flight
included the remains of Gene Roddenberry, Gerard O'Neill,
and Timothy Leary. Later flights, such as the one
on the second stage of the SpaceX falcon 9 that launched
the first Dragon to the ISS included cremains of Mercury
astronaut L. Gordon Cooper and James Doohan, who played
Mr. Scott on Star Trek.
Articles in Space News and elsewhere have reported
strong interest in the Celestis service in Asia. The
company now has affiliates in Japan and China.
Prospector, which was deliberately crashed into
the moon's south pole in hopes of producing a plum
of water vapor from ice that may be there, carried
partial remains of the famous space scientist Gene
Shoemaker. This was arranged by Celestis.
This involves sending some intangible token of yourself
into space. This could be messages and images on a CD
or even a DNA sample. In some cases it is simply broadcasting
a message towards a star with a high power radio transmitter.
More about this can be found in the Space Tourism section.
Advertising Cosmonauts filming commercials on Mir and the
ISS, deliveries of pizza and beef jerky to the ISS,
and postering company decals on the sides of rockets
below) - space advertising has become a reality. Whether
it will become a substantial business or just an occasional
gimmick awaits to be seen.
Note: proposals to put"billboards" of some
kind into orbit that would be visible on earth have
been heavily criticized and would probably be outlawed
if such a "heavenly sign" was actually attempted.
Car racing teams obtain most of their funding from a
major sponsor plus several minor ones. The teams rely
on sponsors since the winnings for even the top teams
seldom cover all of the expenses.
The sponsor's logo covers the car and
the drivers's helmets and suits and the cars may be
featured in the company's advertising.
It has been suggested that commercial
space projects, especially private launch vehicle developers,
might find similar continual, on-going support via similar
sponsorships (see the Space
Access'02 meeting review), as opposed to
just the occasional ad as mentioned above.
While such a sponsor probably would not
cover the total project costs, they could nevertheless
provide a significant revenue stream.
As amateur and small company sub-orbital
RLV's begin to appear in X-Prize attempts and commercial
launches they will probably receive tremendous publicity.
When XCOR, for example, flew its EZ-Rocket in 2001,
there were reports about it in numerous major newspapers,
magazines, and TV news programs. The possibility of
such media attention should attract considerable interest
from potential sponsors.
The X PRIZE became the Ansari X PRIZE
when the Ansari family became the top sponsor for the
project. They also succeeded in finding several other
major sponsors for its suborbital spaceflight contest.
It is now finding sponsors for the annual X
The Ansari family became the title sponsor for
the X PRIZE.
Space League - beginning with events at the
Oklahoma Spaceport, Takeoff plans "to take
the [GSL] concept around the country to enthuse
as many people as possible" about high altitude
sub-orbital rocketry and other new space developments.
Sports: Zero-G Sports/Reality Shows
Projects involving sports and reality type TV shows
based on weightlessness, via parabolic flights until
access to orbit becomes cheaper, have begun to appear.
Champions - a reality based show plus a football
like game ("paraball") in zero-g.
Commercial space transportation systems need, of course,
a spaceport facility from which to operate. Even air
launch systems need a home base. Some space transport
companies will use existing government installations
but most space tourism types of operations plan to use
a dedicated commercial facility. (Some of these will
use a launchpad at an on-going government spaceport.)
Some of the commercial spaceports plan to include theme
park types of facilities for visitors such as tours,
space museums, simulators, space/rocket exhibitions,
thrill rides, etc.
Commercial spaceports are being established
around the world to tap the potentially lucrative
market of future civilian space transportation
and space touriam. The goal of the report
is to establish business, technical, and regulatory
criteria to evaluate existing and future spaceports'
commercial viability and sustainability of
infrastructure and operations. The team has
developed a Spaceport Evaluation Mechanism
(SEM) to assist spaceport developers and operators
in the evaluation of the commercial viability
Commercial theme parks and entertainment facilities
with all or mostly space-related attractions. Included
here also are the companies that build such places.
Planet Expeditions, Inc. (RPE) - "setting
out to build, market, and license the world's first
Mars-themed adventure resort that will authentically
simulate what it will be like to be on an expedition
on Mars in the year 2035." John Spencer of the
Tourism Society is a co-founder.
- the various Space Camps are profit making enterprises.
Cafe - A space-themed, hi-tech, multi-media coffee
Projects Support and Consulting
These companies help students, research groups, and
small companies to put experiments into space.
Aerospace Advisors "In space, unmanned systems and applied technology,
American Aerospace Advisors Inc. provides an exceptional
team of seasoned management, operations, market development
and technical professionals to help our clients accelerate
growth. We work with clients to develop core capabilities,
efficiently establish advantages no competitor can
match, and identify strategic markets and key tactical
Space Enterprises - assist development of
microspace projects with expertise in "systems
engineering, system integration and testing, thermal
engineering, and orbital mechanics."
- a space exploration, application, technology, policy,
and education research consulting organization offering
a broad range of services to aid strategy decisions
by businesses, nonprofit organizations, and governments.
Space Logistics BV - Dutch company that is
a spinoff from a microsat progam at Delft University
of Technology. In addition to microsat development,
they also offer orbital and suborbital launch services
using Indian another rockets.
- Instrumentation Technology Associates provides microgravity
researchers with opportunities "to fly microgravity
experiments at low cost on the Space Shuttle, Russian
MIR Station, sounding rockets, low-gravity aircraft,
orbital re-entry vehicles, and the International Space
In business since 1982, the company both helps
in getting flights and in preparing experiments
for the missions. They also can design and build
custom equipment for the experiments.
The NanoRacks Research System interfaces
standard CubeSat type modules into the International
Space Station (ISS) Express Racks. Our CubeLab
™ Platforms are small modules designed for
use within a pressurized space station environment
in orbit, with a nominal length, width, and
height and a mass of 1 kg (extended CubeLabs™
are possible). Up to 16 of NanoRacks CubeLab
™ modules can be inserted into a NanoRacks
liner inside an Express Rack. Each plugs into
a standard USB connector thus providing structural,
electrical and data connectivity in one simple
operation. “Our business model seeks to encourage
entry level space station research at affordable
prices,” explained NanoRacks Managing Director
Jeffrey Manber. “By adopting a known and widely
used platform for industrial and educational
space research, we expect to stimulate a new
generation of space station users, just as
Cubesats have done for microsatellites.” Adds
Manber, “given advances in nanotechnology
and minimization of electronics, the size
and hence cost of ISS space research is no
longer the impediment it was in the past.”
Are you a NewSpace organization? Could you use
a group of MBA’s at your disposal to complete company
projects without the cost of keeping them on your
payroll? Meet the NewSpace Business Group. Think
of the NewSpace Business Group as a network for
nearly minted passionate, space-minded MBA’s that
gain valuable business experience by solving real
world problems for the NewSpace industry.
Frontiers LLC - "low cost, customizable
turnkey missions", "low-cost mission operations
service", and " Orbit Library™ will offer
customizable access to data from a collection of satellites
as well as organizing tools to perform satellite studies
on a scale never possible before".
Services - a spinoff from Andrews
Space that will arrange for small payloads to
obtain piggyback rides on Falcon 9/Dragon missions.
They will also assist in the various interface and
Spaceworks - The name comes from "Small, Entrepreneurial
and Functional". The company is
focused on small, entrepreneurial commercial
space opportunities and markets. Co-founded by Prof.
Bob Twiggs, small spacecraft pioneer and former
Director of the Stanford Space and Systems Development
Laboratory, Jeffrey Manber space entrepreneur and
former CEO of MirCorp, and others....we are headquartered
in Kentucky a center of emerging small,entrepreneurial
We created SEF Spaceworks to provide a platform
and enterprise that brings together the emerging
small spacecraft and small launch vehicle industry
in a manner that maximizes the transparency and
efficiencies of the marketplace. Continued innovation
in a range of technologies is now making it possible
to squeeze greater and greater capabilities from
Commercial "advances innovative ideas,
solutions, and partnerships aimed at maturing near
and far term commercial and international space ventures.
SpaceWorks Commercial has two main focus areas
Focus Area 1: SpaceWorks Commercial works with
entrepreneurial, privately financed companies, either
to enhance existing or to facilitate new business
opportunities. SpaceWorks Commercial provides both
consulting services and advocacy services to help
bring space projects to maturation.
Focus Area 2: SpaceWorks Commercial champions
its own ventures."
Solutions - "provides technical expertise
to aerospace programs including systems engineering,
mission operations, satellite and program management,
strategic planning and more."
Innovative space Partnerships, Inc (XISP-Inc)
- partner with space firms to help them with "goverance,
operations, project development, intellectual property
orchestration, marketing, supporting services, and
investment. Project participantion opportunities vary
with each project but typically include project oversight,
project management, product development, supporting
services, and investment".
A reusable vehicle to provide low cost access to space
has been the key missing ingredient for real space development.
(See the RLV
section.) A major stumbling block to building
such a vehicle has been the lack of a strong short term
market that could help convince investors to fund such
It has occasionally been proposed that a startup launcher
company could make money by not going all the way to
space but, instead, by offering to deliver high value
goods quickly to distant locations on earth.
For example, a semiconductor company can lose hundreds
of thousands of dollars an hour while waiting for a
crucial part to fix a broken assembly line. If a rocket
or scramjet vehicle could pop over from another continent
with the needed parts, they would gladly pay a hefty
A serious study of the feasibility of Fast Package
Delivery has been done at MIT by several students for
their Master theses work:
Exploring fast package delivery from a systems
perspective - MIT thesis by Jared Martin, 1999
Fast Package Delivery: Commercial Applications of
a Hypersonic Airbreathing Vehicle by J. Martin, K.
Palmer, M. Chan, A. Karasi, D. Glas - AIAA - 1998
(no longer available on line)
Conceptual design of a global fast package delivery
system - thesis by Kurt Palmer 1998
Vehicle concept exploration and avionics architecture
design for a fast package delivery system - thesis
by Dylan F Glas - 2000
The big problem with such a scheme is that for any
distance of interest, e.g. London to Brisbane, the energy
required is fairly close to what is needed to get to
orbit. So it is not as if this is an just an incremental
step for a suborbital system.
Using such vehicles for passenger service has also
"The ability to travel the globe at ultra high
speed is one such dream that still waits to be fulfilled.
An alternative is to propel a vehicle into space on
an arc that, instead of going into orbit, returns
to Earth at a final destination in less than an hour.
It is this concept, suborbital point to point transportation,
which this report investigates. The report has approached
suborbital point to point transportation from a multidisciplinary
perspective, probing the legal, business and operational
topics as well as the technical requirements."
- defunct program that would have offered a prize
for the first successful suborbital spaceflight between
Virginia and Europe.
Prediction from Orbit
There is some evidence that potential earthquake zones
produce extremely low frequency EM waves (ELF) prior
to the actual event. There are experiments underway
to test this theory.
For example, EarthquakeTracker.com
is "a collaborative effort to track and monitor
the ELF (Extremely Low Frequency)magnetic field fluctuations,
generated by the earth near fault zones, as a possible
precursor to large earthquakes (M5+)." They are
focusing on the faults in California with the help of
school groups who install and monitor ELF sensors.
However, such projects only cover a small area. A student
group at Stanford is building a small satellite called
Quakesat to test whether such signals could be detected
from orbit. The 3kg satellite is based on the CubeSat
nano-satellite design developed at Stanford and now
being used by a number of groups.
The satellite would operate for 6 months. Placed in
a polar orbit of about 800km altitude, the satellite
would scan the entire global surface every 4 days.
Two previous satellite missions, the French Aureol
3 and Russian Cosmos 1809, picked up ELF activity prior
If the tests with Quaksat prove promising, the commercial
LLC plans to build a larger, long life satellite.
It would sell its earthquake forecasts like meterological
firms sell weather forecasts. It would also sell the
ground support sensors.
Purchase - Space Science for Hire It has long been suggested that NASA could encourage
development of private space transportation and other
space projects by hiring them for science and engineering
research purposes. NASA, for example, could pay a company
to carry a scientific payload along with its primary
Or, with so-called "data purchase" agreements,
NASA would pay if and when data in a given area of interest
was returned. For example, Spacedev
has had a long standing proposal to fund an asteroid
prospecting probe if NASA would agree in advance
to pay for data obtained. Spacedev would take the financial
risks if the mission failed but could use the NASA promise
to raise the money.
So far NASA has not backed the Spacedev project but
it has recently agreed to some science and engineering
research cooperation with commercial space projects.
Team Encountersolar sail planned
to carry a commercial payload that consists primarily
of memorabilia sent by paying public customers. However,
it will also carry a prototype Stellar
Compass for NASA, which is paying $6.5M for the
ride. Also, NOAA will pay it for study of the feasibility
of using solar sails to sit over the north or south
pole to monitor the environment there.
[Oct. 2005: This project was discontinued when the
primary investor shut it down according to a report
in Space News, Oct. 24, 2005. ]
has not yet signed an agreement with any agency for
data from its lunar probe, but it hopes to sell the
high definition mapping imagery to NASA and anyone
else when it becomes available.
tried unsuccessfully to provide a lunar commercial
rover for scientific tasks in exchange for NASA funding.
Space Activist/Business Combo
There have been a number of attempts by various space
advocacy groups and individuals to try to develop space
development organizations along the lines of the National
Geographic Society. That is, use donations and other
voluntary contributions of time and effort with commercial
activities such as magazine subscriptions and documentaries
to support a space program such as a lunar or Martian
settlement. See, for example, The
Martian Trust and 4Frontiers
Continent Project at the Colorado School of
"The 8th Continent Project is a comprehensive
effort to integrate space technology and resources
into the global economy. The Project includes a chamber
of commerce, business incubator, funding network and
research center. The Project is organizing "Space
2.0" – the emerging generation of entrepreneurial
space-related business ventures.
Joining the Colorado School of Mines, initial 8th
Continent Founders include: DigitalGlobe, Keiretsu
Forum/Denver angel network, Townsend & Townsend &
Crew IP law firm, Metzger Associates Public Relations,
MicroSat Systems, Broad Reach Engineering, Colorado
Governor's Office of Economic Development and International
Trade, and the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship
at the University of Colorado."
LLC - " low-orbit satellite system that collects
atmospheric information by recording how radio signals
bend as they travel through the atmosphere to a receiver.
It’s a technique known as radio occultation (RO),
which was pioneered by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
(JPL) in the late 1960s."
YUZOZ - founded by Jeffrey Manber who was involved
with MirCorp and later founded NanoRacks.
The company's product was a "Space Random Number
Generator". That used various real-time space
related data to create genuine random numbers
rather the pseudo-random number generation commonly
used in various applications. I reprint their
news release below. The company shut down a
few years later.
- " Provide a one-stop portal to the Research
Partnership Centers (RPCs), which is a program
that the president of SpacePartnerships.com [Frank
Schowengerdt] ran at NASA headquarters for three
+ Support Space Businesses - information &
links concerning businesses that rely on satellites
in low and medium altitude orbits. Also, links to
various businesses, such as those that build ground
stations, that support the systems based in space.
Business Resources - various resources related
to space businesses such as links to space investment
sites, research reports, etc.