Thursday , June 17 2021

To market the space, we need to build infrastructure and not just launch rockets




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A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket takes off from the launch pad of the Cape Canaveral 40 Air Force Station Complex; Cape Canaveral, Florida, Tuesday, August 7, 2018. Credit: AP Photo / John Raoux

The rockets are large, powerful and dramatic. They are hundreds of feet high and are launched into orbit for millions of pounds of buoyancy at nearly 25,000 miles per hour. As they ascend, they leave behind long, bright trails that mark their way to the stars and mystify the Earth-connected viewers they left behind. It is these incredible technologies and the growing number of for-profit companies behind them that are leading the conversation around the new space race.

However, as private-sector rocket makers such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, Orbital ATK and the United Launch Alliance increase enthusiasm in their efforts to commercialize space, it is easy to lose sight of the dozens of companies working to build the infra structure that will make marketing possible and sustainable. .

Space is a dangerous place, and although rockets are needed to reach it, they do little to allow people to live safely and work productively while they are there. This responsibility is increasingly falling to a small but growing set of companies that are building the infrastructure for life in space. In addition to NASA's ongoing efforts, startups of varying degrees of funding are emerging to provide features such as life support systems, crew habitability, device connectivity, satellite traffic management, and food solutions. Although smaller and perhaps less glamorous, these types of technologies are crucial to space marketing efforts.

New Mexico based Solstar, for example, is building a commercial Internet network that will allow WiFi connectivity accessible and accessible in space and between devices in space and on Earth. In partnership with existing satellite operators, Solstar was able to rapidly deploy its software and hardware into orbit, and earlier this year facilitated a space tweet without using government owned networks. Although Internet connectivity in space already exists, it depends entirely on closed networks operated by space agencies like NASA. In many ways, this resembles the development of the terrestrial internet, which before the emergence of commercial service providers was only accessible by government agencies and universities. The emergence of companies such as AOL and Compuserve democratized the global computer network and opened it up to the masses. Similarly, a commercial space network will be vital if astronauts and private tourists want to communicate easily and cheaply with each other and with the Earth.

Another often neglected capability required for successful space marketing is traffic management. Although most people think that space is infinitely vast, orbital space around the Earth is getting more and more full. There are almost 2,000 satellites active in orbit and thousands more that are inactive, let alone the almost 800,000 pieces of space debris over one centimeter high at thousands of miles per hour. The orbital congestion is of particular concern given number of satellite companies and governments are looking to deploy, which some say could more than triple in the next decade. That's where companies like the Houston-based startup Cognitive space log in. Similar to what many companies intend to do for Traffic here on Earth, Cognitive Space is developing an AI-controlled control system that will automate satellite operations, alleviating people's need to monitor and manage each individual satellite. By increasing the intelligence of each satellite, the company hopes to eliminate the manual processes that satellite operators rely on today, making space a safer, more efficient and more manageable place for the people and technology we put into orbit.

Another company that develops infrastructure systems for space is Bigelow Aerospace. Founded by billionaire hotel developer Robert Bigelow in 1999, the company attracted great attention in 2016 when it launched its expandable activity module, an inflatable habitat that is significantly easier and cheaper to carry than rigid modules. Earlier this year, Bigelow announced the creation of Bigelow Space Operations to develop a private space station built around its expandable module technology. The use of inflatable habitats has the potential to greatly accelerate the commercialization of space, allowing larger structures to be deployed more quickly. In a way, this approach offers similar benefits to prefabricated homes: lower costs, faster deployment, greater flexibility – all of which will make living in the space more accessible and more accessible to everyone.

Companies like these – and there are a lot more, new and established – who are building the infrastructure we need to successfully market space, are just as important as building rockets. Future astronauts will need a place to live and work, plenty of food and water, sophisticated waste management systems, the ability to connect to devices in space and people at home, and safe passage through increasingly crowded orbital space. As the space industry grows, it will be important for public sector decision makers, private sector partners, and venture capital funders to remember that these less dramatic and literally less explosive physical systems are also needed to make room for all of humanity .

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A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket takes off from the launch pad of the Cape Canaveral 40 Air Force Station Complex; Cape Canaveral, Florida, Tuesday, August 7, 2018. Credit: AP Photo / John Raoux

The rockets are large, powerful and dramatic. They are hundreds of feet high and are launched into orbit for millions of pounds of buoyancy at nearly 25,000 miles per hour. As they ascend, they leave behind long, bright trails that mark their way to the stars and mystify the Earth-connected viewers they left behind. It is these incredible technologies and the growing number of for-profit companies behind them that are leading the conversation around the new space race.

However, as private-sector rocket makers such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, Orbital ATK and the United Launch Alliance increase enthusiasm in their efforts to commercialize space, it is easy to lose sight of the dozens of companies working to build the infra structure that will make marketing possible and sustainable. .

Space is a dangerous place, and although rockets are needed to reach it, they do little to allow people to live safely and work productively while they are there. This responsibility is increasingly falling to a small but growing set of companies that are building the infrastructure for life in space. In addition to NASA's ongoing efforts, startups of varying degrees of funding are emerging to provide features such as life support systems, crew habitability, device connectivity, satellite traffic management, and food solutions. Although smaller and perhaps less glamorous, these types of technologies are crucial to space marketing efforts.

New Mexico based Solstar, for example, is building a commercial Internet network that will allow WiFi connectivity accessible and accessible in space and between devices in space and on Earth. In partnership with existing satellite operators, Solstar was able to rapidly deploy its software and hardware into orbit, and earlier this year facilitated a space tweet without using government owned networks. Although Internet connectivity in space already exists, it depends entirely on closed networks operated by space agencies like NASA. In many ways, this resembles the development of the terrestrial internet, which before the emergence of commercial service providers was only accessible by government agencies and universities. The emergence of companies such as AOL and Compuserve democratized the global computer network and opened it up to the masses. Similarly, a commercial space network will be vital if astronauts and private tourists want to communicate easily and cheaply with each other and with the Earth.

Another often neglected capability required for successful space marketing is traffic management. Although most people think that space is infinitely vast, orbital space around the Earth is getting more and more full. There are almost 2,000 satellites active in orbit and thousands more that are inactive, let alone the almost 800,000 pieces of space debris over one centimeter high at thousands of miles per hour. The orbital congestion is of particular concern given number of satellite companies and governments are looking to deploy, which some say could more than triple in the next decade. That's where companies like the Houston-based startup Cognitive space log in. Similar to what many companies intend to do for Traffic here on Earth, Cognitive Space is developing an AI-controlled control system that will automate satellite operations, alleviating people's need to monitor and manage each individual satellite. By increasing the intelligence of each satellite, the company hopes to eliminate the manual processes that satellite operators rely on today, making space a safer, more efficient and more manageable place for the people and technology we put into orbit.

Another company that develops infrastructure systems for space is Bigelow Aerospace. Founded by billionaire hotel developer Robert Bigelow in 1999, the company attracted great attention in 2016 when it launched its expandable activity module, an inflatable habitat that is significantly easier and cheaper to carry than rigid modules. Earlier this year, Bigelow announced the creation of Bigelow Space Operations to develop a private space station built around its expandable module technology. The use of inflatable habitats has the potential to greatly accelerate the commercialization of space, allowing larger structures to be deployed more quickly. In a way, this approach offers similar benefits to prefabricated homes: lower costs, faster deployment, greater flexibility – all of which will make living in the space more accessible and more accessible to everyone.

Companies like these – and there are a lot more, new and established – who are building the infrastructure we need to successfully market space, are just as important as building rockets. Future astronauts will need a place to live and work, plenty of food and water, sophisticated waste management systems, the ability to connect to devices in space and people at home, and safe passage through increasingly crowded orbital space. As the space industry grows, it will be important for public sector decision makers, private sector partners, and venture capital funders to remember that these less dramatic and literally less explosive physical systems are also needed to make room for all of humanity .


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