This week is the deadline to submit a letter of Intent for the NewSpace Business Plan Competition. It is another example of the growing investments being made to grow a new space economy in the United States. This investment has been steadily growing over the past decade and was forecasted by Futron in a report released in 2002 that projected the potential space tourism market and revenue from this market. Although the launch capability has not yet matched the industry’s initial predictions, Futron’s recent update on suborbital tourism continues to highlight the interest and investments being made in commercial space. For me one of the most insightful predictions related to the future of commercial space came from a consultant who does scenario planning for various organizations and industries. When asked what he thought about commercial space, he stated that he couldn’t comment on their success, but he could state that the collective amount of discretionary funding available by the “New Space” community exceeds the NASA budget. He also stated that they are focused on only one goal, access to space and with that amount of investment focused on one goal; it is only a matter of time before they are successful.
The list of new entries into the commercial space market continues to grow as captured by Space Frontier in their list of the next Generation of Space companies. The list includes the New Space Launch Service Companies like SpaceX, Sierra Nevada, Armadillo Space, and Blue Origin. Their list also includes Companies Marketing Space & Zero-G Tourism and Training Companies. Among the more interesting ones are those focused on tourism like Space Adventures with the recent announcement that James Cameron has purchased a round trip ticket to the moon. Also intriguing is the company whose goal is to develop the premier crew training program for suborbital flight, Orbital Commerce project. In addition you have Bigelow Aerospace, who has a 2/3 version of his space hotel currently orbiting the Earth.
Another indicator of the investment being made for this market is in the increase of spaceports in the United States. In 2004 MSNBC published the above map of the current and future space ports for that time. This past January, the Federal Aviation Industry released the 2011 U.S. Commercial Space Transportation Developments and Concepts: Vehicles, Technologies, and Spaceports with the below map of the current registered Space Ports.
As I look at this map there is a large blank area that catches my eye. The Texas Coast does not have any red circles or blue squares. Yes, Houston has Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center but we need a Texas Spaceport.
The Space City should be leading the nation in opening up the new frontier to commercial space. Houston has a strong legacy of building new industries and even has the Houston Technology Center, The Entrepreneurial Capital. Also as a commerce hub with the Port of Houston, Houston Airport System, railroad system and the intersection of the Interstate highway system, Houston is the logical birth place for Space Commerce. In a blog entry by Dr. Peter Diamandis (X Prize Founder and Chairman), SUCCESS!!! Using Economic Engines to open the space frontier, he states that “We need profitable, human-related, space companies with large and robust markets that will drive down the cost of spaceflight, in the same fashion that the large and vibrant PC market took us from room-size systems to a laptop on every desk!” Houston knows a thing or two about being an economic engine and so what is needed is a strong robust market to grow the community of Space Companies already resident in the Houston area.
It is said that among the key ingredients for creating a “Silicon Valley” or a “Sematech” community is the density of expertise, capital and an entrepreneurial spirit. Houston has the density of experts, Texas has the capital and Houston definitely has the entrepreneurial spirit. In my next entry I will explore how the Houston community and the state of Texas are mixing these ingredients to seed the Silicon Valley of Space.
Mr. González serves as the NASA Loaned Executive for the aerospace sector. He has over 21 years of experience in the aerospace industry. He is currently the Deputy of the Advanced Planning Office at the NASA/Johnson Space Center (JSC), which is responsible for the 20 year strategy of the Johnson Space Center. Prior to this position, Mr. González was the Chief of the Operations Research and Strategic Development Branch within the Mission Operations Directorate. He has received numerous awards and was nominated as one of the 100 Most Important Hispanics in Technology and Business, the Rotary Stellar Award Nomination for demonstrating exceptional competence as a leader. He also received the JSC Certificate of Commendation, the Center’s highest honorary award for exceptional leadership and technical abilities for managing, the integration, scheduling, and testing of the software and hardware system deliveries for the new JSC Mission Control Center. He received his Masters of Science at Texas A&M University and his Bachelors at Boston University.