Sorry the blogging has been so light over the past several days. Over the past three days, I had been attending the three-day Commercial Opportunities in Space Forum put on by the Alliance for Commercial Enterprises in Space (ACES). It was free, nearby (NASA Ames is only about 15-20 minutes down the road from our shop), and had potential customers and investors there, so we figured it would be a good idea to have someone there representing MSS.
I had promised I would write a summary, but I’ve been having a hard time getting started. Other more talented writers like Jeff Foust seem to be able to distill out the Zeitgeist of other conferences in a short, two-page article, whereas my last conference report ended up dragging on for about a week and a half after the fact. In spite of the fact that I still haven’t been able to find my own Handy-Dandy-Zeitgeist-Distillation-ma-DooHickey, I’ll try to at least keep things shorter than last time.
Before I go into any specifics about the conference, I have to give kudos to the Innovation Labs guys who helped run the show. During the various presentations, some of their guys were sitting off on the side of the room with eisles capturing what was being said in a graphic, almost cartoon-like format. I have to say, I was fairly impressed at both the quality of the art, as well as how well they were actually recording the information, especially seeing as how they were doing this real-time, on-the-fly as the presentations proceeded. They said that sometime soon they’ll put all the notes (and pictures of all the storyboards) up on-line for people to see, so I’ll link to those once they’re available.
Phil Smith of ACES (who is apparently not the Phil Smith who frequents online space groups like spacepolicy.com) started the conference off by pointing out the interesting situation we find ourselves in at the moment. Lots of money has been, is, and will be expended (in the relatively near future) towards lowering the cost of space access, and improving the througput and reliability of that access. There’s still a long way to go, but it looks like there’s a good chance this wave will be the one that finally succeeds in creating truly commercial space access. In addition to space access, there is a huge restructuring going on at the moment in the goverment side of space. With NASA’s shall we say “Non-Kosher” approach to returning to the moon, Life Sciences and other areas within NASA’s microgravity research program are being gutted at the moment, and their people are all of the sudden realizing that their jobs and their research are now in jeapordy if they can’t find private sponsors and revenue streams ASAP. Lastly, Phil highlighted the rapid improvements in biotech research, developments regarding the human genome, and how vibrant a part of our economy biotechnology really is.
The goal of the conference was to try and engage commercial industry to act on the opportunities created by these realities, and in particular to figure out what would be needed to take us from where we are right now to a point where the business cases were solid enough to start bringing in real capital for commercial space markets like these to get off the ground.
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