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NASA Comments on Commercial Space Markets

Page history last edited by Ken Davidian 15 years, 5 months ago

This is a listing of comments made by NASA officials regarding Commercial Space Markets


NASA Centennial Challenges Awards Ceremony for the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge

December 5, 2008, Washington DC

Below are MP3 files of the speeches and remarks given by speakers at the awards ceremony. The recording quality is not great.

Left-click on the links to listen to the recordings, or right-click to download them.



Encouraging the Emerging Commercial Space Industry


The speech entitled "NASA and the Commercial Space Industry" given by NASA Administrator, Michael Griffin, on the occasion of the X PRIZE Cup Summit on 19 October 2006, has a lot of references to the emerging commercial space industry in general and specifics about companies and COTS, so the whole thing is worth reading, but below are one or two snippets of interest.


From page 1:

"All of you here will be familiar with our new Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) demonstrations, being conducted under the framework of NASA Space Act Agreements.  These landmark agreements are, truly, NASA’s most significant investment to date in attempting to spur the development of the commercial space industry.  But let me say this at the outset:  NASA can do even better in partnering with the commercial and entrepreneurial space sector in carrying out our nation’s Vision for Space Exploration.  However, let me be equally blunt about the other side of the coin: “partnership” with NASA is not a synonym for “helping NASA spend its money”.  Just as with our international partnerships, I expect commercial and venture capital partners to have “skin in the game”, contributing resources toward a common goal that is greater than that which could be easily afforded by NASA alone, while figuring out how to make a profit from it!"


From page 6:

"Now, I must be clear that the development of space tourism is not a part of NASA’s charter.  NASA was founded during the Cold War, soon after the launch of Sputnik, when the United States was in a race with the Soviets.  NASA and the early civil space program were instruments of American preeminence in the world, at a time when an important component of such was seen to be preeminence in space.  NASA achieved the goals that were set for it by the nation’s policymakers in that era, and did so with remarkable brilliance, so much so that even today we remain in awe of what the Apollo generation did.  Now, some have since posited that NASA somehow failed the American public by not opening up the experience of space travel to the broader population.  This is patent nonsense; the agency could not fail at something it was never asked to do.  Such a mandate was simply never in NASA’s charter; if it were, I would question the wisdom of such a role for a government entity.  However, as we go forward with the Vision for Space Exploration, it emphatically is our duty to encourage and leverage nascent commercial space capabilities.  Not only is it the right thing to do in a country whose economic system is rooted in free market concepts, but it will also be a necessity if we are to achieve the goals set out for the U.S. civil space program."


From remarks given by NASA Associate Administer Rex Geveden at the Microgravity Flight Procurement Solicitation Conference held at the NASA Glenn Research Center on 16 May 2007:


"It is important to note that NASA’s orientation toward commercial space activities fulfills President Bush’s January 14th, 2004 directive to promote commercial space participation in space exploration.  It also is in sync with the U.S. National Space Policy, issued last fall, which states, “The U.S. is committed to encouraging and facilitating a growing and entrepreneurial U.S. commercial space sector.  Toward that end, the U.S. Government will use U.S. commercial space capabilities to the maximum practical extent, consistent with national security.” Additionally, the 2005 NASA Authorization Act also calls on the agency to advance space commerce.  In other words, for NASA, it isn’t merely a good idea to pursue commercial space opportunities.  It is also a matter of compliance with policy and law that we do so."


Shana Dale, NASA's Deputy Administrator, made a speech at the California Space Authority's "Transforming Space" Conference on 8 November 2007 in which she talked about encouraging the commercial space sector. Click here to listen to an excerpt of her speech.


"For those of you who know Mike Griffin and me, you know we are committed to the success of commercial space. A vibrant commercial sector is essential to fulfilling the long-term aspirations of space exploration. But the commitment to commercial space cannot survive on the backs of top leaders alone – because the top leaders of federal agencies have fleeting careers at the helm. It needs to be a philosophy, an automatic way of thinking for the majority of the Agency. That’s why I was so heartened to see the new commercial policy from the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. This policy was not mandated by Mike Griffin or me. It bubbled up from Exploration – a good sign indeed. The purpose of this policy is to provide Exploration with a set of best practices, ideas and concepts which all Exploration activities should be aware of and work to encourage commercial space capabilities."


NASA Administrator, Michael Griffin, in remarks given to the Space Transportation Association on 22 January 2008, entitled "The Constellation Architecture", said the following: 


"Further application of common sense also requires us to acknowledge that now is the time, this is the juncture, and we are the people to make provisions for the contributions of the commercial space sector to our nation's overall space enterprise. The development and exploitation of space has, so far, been accomplished in a fashion that can be described as "all government, all the time". That's not the way the American frontier was developed, it's not the way this nation developed aviation, it's not the way the rest of our economy works, and it ought not to be good enough for space, either. So, proactively and as a matter of deliberate policy, we need to make provisions for the first step on the stairway to space to be occupied by commercial entrepreneurs - whether they reside in big companies or small ones."


From NASA Deputy Administrator, Shana Dale's blog entry entitled "Competitiveness in the Space Economy", July 18, 2008.

"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."


Fuel Depot Market


From a speech given at the 52nd Annual Conference of the American Astronautical Society on 15 November 2005 by NASA Administrator, Michael Griffin, entitled "NASA and the Business of Space" (starting on page 7):


"However, in deciding to embark on a lunar mission, we cannot afford the consequential damage of not having fuel available when needed. Recognizing that fact, our mission architecture hauls its own Earth-departure fuel up from the ground for each trip. But if there were a fuel depot available on orbit, one capable of being replenished at any time, the Earth departure stage could after refueling carry significantly more payload to the Moon, maximizing the utility of the inherently expensive SDHLV for carrying high-value cargo.


"But NASA’s architecture does not feature a fuel depot. Even if it could be afforded within the budget constraints which we will likely face – and it cannot – it is philosophically the wrong thing for the government to be doing. It is not “necessary”; it is not on the critical path of things we “must do” to return astronauts to the Moon. It is a highly valuable enhancement, but the mission is not hostage to its availability. It is exactly the type of enterprise which should be left to industry and to the marketplace.


"So let us look forward ten or more years, to a time when we are closer to resuming human exploration of the Moon. The value of such a commercially operated fuel depot in low Earth orbit at that time is easy to estimate. Such a depot would support at least two planned missions to the Moon each year. The architecture which we have advanced places about 150 metric tons in LEO, 25 MT on the Crew Launch Vehicle and 125 MT on the heavy-lifter. Of the total, about half will be propellant in the form of liquid oxygen and hydrogen, required for the translunar injection to the Moon. If the Earth departure stage could be refueled on-orbit, the crew and all high-value hardware could be launched using a single SDHLV, and all of this could be sent to the Moon.


"There are several ways in which the value of this extra capability might be calculated, but at a conservatively low government price of $10,000/kg for payload in LEO, 250 MT of fuel for two missions per year is worth $2.5 B, at government rates. If a commercial provider can supply fuel at a lower cost, both the government and the contractor will benefit. This is a non-trivial market, and it will only grow as we continue to fly. The value of fuel for a single Mars mission may be several billion dollars by itself. Once industry becomes fully convinced that the United States, in company with its international partners, is headed out into the solar system for good, I believe that the economics of such a business will attract multiple competitors, to the benefit of both stockholders and taxpayers."


Suborbital Human Spaceflight


From page 6 of a speech entitled "NASA and Commercial Space: Public Trust and Private Interest" given by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin to the Space Transportation Association on 11 January 2007:


"Now, I do not want anyone to leave with the impression that I am diminishing the accomplishments of SpaceShipOne or the management team behind it. Far, far from it. What an incredible accomplishment! Indeed, I look forward to the day when NASA can purchase seats on future commercial suborbital flights for our own microgravity experiments and astronaut training. All I am saying is that we need to put such accomplishments in perspective, learn from them, but not attempt to overstate the case as to how NASA should behave more like a commercial or entrepreneurial endeavor."



This description of comments by Michael Griffin, NASA Administrator, from Alan Boyle's 30 July 2008 Cosmic Log column:


Old vs. New? The line gets fuzzier


Going forward, it won't be so easy to separate "New Space" from "Old Space." Sure, Virgin Galactic is counting on the revenue from space tourism. "You are the large-volume payload that's been missing," Rutan told Tuesday's appreciative audience.


But Rutan and other New Spacers are hoping NASA will buy some rides as well. That's what Griffin hopes, too: "I've said repeatedly that when commercial human spaceflight opportunities exist, NASA will be a purchaser of those services, whether for astronaut training or for scientific flights," he said.


NASA is in the market for orbital services as well: Two companies, SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, are getting millions of dollars in development funds to build spaceships capable of resupplying the international space station once the shuttle fleet retires in 2010. Griffin said the space agency's recent request for station resupply bids drew proposals from more than a dozen companies.


"I'm very confident that we're going to find some [orbital space services] that we're going to want to purchase," he said.


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