Doing Business In Low Earth Orbit

Doing Business In Low Earth Orbit

NASA is going to encourage doing business in Low Earth Orbit. The space agency is counting on the commercial use of space-bases like the International Space Station.

For instance, the International Space Station will host a variety of economic activities, like turning into a space hotel for the wealthy, using a specially designed habitat.

Another idea is using the ISS as a space-port for small satellites. Or using the International Space Station for multiple experiments in low gravity, which scientists couldn’t perform on Earth.

The bottom line? These commercial activities will generate additional income for NASA’s future ambitions and will continue even after the International Space Station’s retirement, which is estimated in the mid-2020s.

However, this initiative is not going to be an easy feat. Some of the challenges are economic, others are technical. Putting things in an economical perspective, NASA has released a free electronic book called “Economic Development of Low Earth Orbit.” The space agency plans to familiarize entrepreneurs with the idea of doing business in Low Earth Orbit.

One of the more interesting chapters deals with protein crystallization which could lead to the development of new drugs. The book is based on research papers, not how-to guides. So it leaves the freedom of decision to the entrepreneur.

Challenges To Business Ahead

Another important challenge in doing business in Low Earth Orbit is the copyright over the projects and experiments. The intellectual rights companies will share over their projects remain unclear. And so do the intellectual rights companies will choose to keep secret for a number of years.

One study the e-book cites raised challenges from another perspective. It turned out that many entrepreneurs who experimented or took part in the International Space Station’s activities didn’t know whether they would continue research in future.

The e-book also took into consideration the risk factors for businesses – there is not much evidence on commercial success, the ISS’ period of use has limitations and there is little room for equipment or heavy payloads. Another important setback is the lack of awareness about commercial activity on the ISS.

Moreover, there are some suggestions which businesses could implement at this stage. For example, focusing on clearer commercial applications, like space-hotels or simply space-walking for those in search of adrenaline, instead of promoting the scientific experiment side, which doesn’t seem as lucrative, at first glance.

Big Companies Compete

There are other, more pressing problems that currently affect the International Space Station. One would be that Russia plans to detach its’ segment of ISS habitat in 2023-2024. The Russian part of the ISS can work independently, while the American side cannot.

The fact that NASA plans to give the International Space Station to private companies, means that whoever takes over is going to have to rebuild Russia’s segment.

The good news is that by getting rid of the responsibility of running the International Space Station, NASA will be able to invest 20% more capital in its Mars Mission.

Candidates for taking over ISIS are companies like Boeing, SpaceX, or Sierra Nevada. These players have a good record of being reliable and good partners with NASA.

Image Source – Wikipedia