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Topic: Infrastructure Development

Page history last edited by Michael Mealling 12 years, 5 months ago

Commercial space endeavors require significant infrastructure to allow them to do business. Some are required simply start doing business: access to capital, insurance, regulatory clarity, etc. Others reduce the costs of doing business which allows new business cases to close: low cost access to launch sites, logistics services in a given area, access to skilled labor, etc.

 

Question: What infrastructure changes/development can NASA, the Federal Government, and State governments do to enable new commercial space endeavors?

 

1) Reform of range management, rules and pricing

 

2) State level liability protection laws

 

3) NASA externships (access to skilled labor)

 

A good example of how range infrastructure and scheduling policies can cost significant amounts of money:  SpaceX pushes back target date for next Falcon 1 launch

And this is just one flight of a Falcon 1. As SpaceX grows and its manifest fills up these kinds of scheduling issues can cause them to lose business.

Comments (2)

Bradley Cheetham said

at 9:03 pm on Jun 24, 2008

So would you say that in the near term there needs to be policy changes to help the growing private launch businesses stay on schedule? and that long term private launch sites must be developed to meet the needs of private launchers? Are government sponsored space-ports the answer? What analogies can be drawn with airports and are there any other previous examples of similar problems that could be used as case studies?

Michael Mealling said

at 8:17 am on Jun 25, 2008

Bradley,
Yes. At present there are only a small number of spaceports. But the list is growing. But in all cases the spaceport is part of an existing rocket range that is managed by the military. So its not really the launch site but the range its part of. There is already work underway to build three private space ports and those are proceeding as well as things like this go (New Mexico, Mojave, and Wyoming). Existing ports are trying to retool to attract this kind of business but many are still to expensive.

Here's an excellent example from my experience: we would like to fly from the site in New Mexico. It is next door to White Sands Missile Range. When I asked what the launch prices were the response was anywhere from "free" to "$200" per launch. But what is NOT known is what role White Sands has. At one point the port would handle launch logistics but the instant you lite your engines and left the ground you came under White Sands management. That required being under their Range Safety Officer, the use of their range services EVEN IF YOU DIDN'T NEED THEM, and subject to their launch schedule. That meant that the minimum cost for access to the range was $100,000 plus the restriction that they couldn't handle out flight rate. I plan on flying every single day. They said all they could handle was once a month at most. I can't do business with those restrictions.

IMHO, Federal government sponsored space ports are not the answer. Space ports that operate like air ports are. This means the FAA sets regulations around how they operate and manages the airspace. But local, state and private concerns pay for, build and run the actual port. With the exception of the Range issue, the way New Mexico and Mojave have done things is the 1000% exact right model.

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