Competitiveness in the Space Economy

In my blog entry for April 11, 2008, I wrote about the “Space Economy” and the two keys to its success.  My focus was on the first of those keys, innovation, and the way it is enabled by NASA.  Internally, we often refer to NASA-enabled innovation as technology commercialization.

With this entry, I would like to discuss the second key ingredient to economic growth — competitiveness.  U.S. National Space Policy directs NASA to encourage the development of a highly competitive U.S. commercial space industry.  Ideally, this industry would meet NASA’s mission needs in addition to those of non-government customers.  Encouraging the creation of this type of industry is known as commercial development.

NASA is embracing commercial development because a broad and robust commercial space sector will be essential for the U.S. to meet its exploration goals in the long-term.  With the private sector providing goods and services in the near-Earth region, NASA will be able to concentrate on exploration further into space.

To encourage a new commercial space sector, the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD) developed a Commercial Development Policy in November 2007.  This policy is consistent with guidelines already written into law (P.L. 102-588), by including the following principles:

•    NASA should only encourage commercial space sectors that can fulfill specific mission needs.
•    Procurement of commercially procured good or service must be cost effective.
•    The goods or services must be bought through an open and fair competition.
•    Non-government customers for the good or service must exist.
•    The long-term success of the commercial space sector cannot rely upon long-term Government support.
•    The Government cannot fund the entire venture.

To date, ESMD has adopted this policy and it is being distributed to the rest of NASA offices for review.  The goal is to develop an Agency-wide, NASA Commercial Development Policy before the end of the year.

The ESMD team has made a major effort to solicit input on this policy from as many external sources as possible.  I encourage you to request the ESMD documents from Ken Davidian (  Comments provided to Ken by the end of August will be considered for the final version of the NASA Commercial Development Policy.