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Why Everyone's Talking Commercial Space

26 Jun 2009, 23:15 UTC
Why Everyone's Talking Commercial Space
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"Dragon Cargo Capsule" Source: SpaceX

Rarely have I seen NASA, especially its human spaceflight program, in such a difficult and conflicted state and I’ve been involved for 30 years. The two Space Shuttle disasters were shocking and tragic, and after each many thought the Agency might not recover. But after making some technical and procedural changes, the Shuttle returned each time to operational status. Now, our space-related challenges seem more infrastructure and resource-related, and the fixes less obvious. However, it seems increasingly likely that commercial space will have an important role.

NASA is at a major strategic crossroads, and many think it’s in a quagmire of insufficient resources and overwhelming requirements. This is made worse by observing new competitors and several of our traditional international partners pursuing collaborative space development among themselves. To me the most critical needs are 1) for strong Congressional and NASA leadership willing to openly assess our choices and their consequences, and then advocate for and implement difficult resource-related decisions, and 2) for cost-effective improvements in our inadequate space infrastructure. The latter especially relates to the importance of the emerging entrepreneurial commercial space market, the focus of this story.

NASA’s human spaceflight problems have ...

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