Last year NASA issued a Request for Information, or RFI, for Commercial Lunar Communications & Navigation. The intent was “to gauge interest and solicit ideas from private companies in providing communications and navigation services that would support the development of exploration, scientific and commercial capabilities on the moon over the next 25 years.” It is a potential next phase of the agency’s emphasis to encourage commercial space as it is doing with the COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation System) program in the Commercial Crew & Cargo program office.
As I reflected on potentially using a commercial satellite provider to enable the astronauts to “phone home” from the moon, I was curious as to what else has been going on in the world of space commerce. In the process I stumbled across this blog entry by Dr. Peter Diamandis, SUCCESS!!! Using Economic Engines to open the space frontier. In it he reflects on how the public flight of the Rocket Racing League “X-Racer” and the rollout of White Knight 2 were so critical. What caught my attention was his reflection on the X-Racer and how it “is tapping into the multi-billion dollar entertainment marketplace” and it is “a company which is exciting the public about space and driving the development of low-cost and reliable engines.” Of course he states his personal reasons for his enthusiasm about the X-Racer but it made me wonder what else could NASA do to encourage, foster, sponsor space commerce. What role should NASA play in enabling space commerce? For me, the benefit for NASA would be greater infrastructure that NASA could leverage as it explores beyond LEO.
If you haven’t had a chance to place your votes with the recent set of twitter polls focused on NASA’s future focus (NASA poll, Outside of NASA poll) I would encourage you to submit your vote. You will find an interesting trend on the external poll. It points to NASA having a greater focus on helping to develop commercial space. The missing data is what should we do to fulfill this focus?
Let me know what you think our role should be as it relates to commercial space and what other efforts could be taken to spur on space commerce?
Sharing the Vision,
Steven Gonzalez, Deputy, Advanced Planning Office