NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson, Expedition 24 flight engineer, looks through a window in the Cupola of the International Space Station. A blue and white part of Earth and the blackness of space are visible through the windows.
Credit: NASA

 

 

A Reason Foundation study is calling for, and has outlined, a 10-year plan for shifting from a space exploration model centered on NASA to a commerce-based structure.

That structure is one in which the private sector assumes responsibility for all space transportation, large payload launch vehicles and launch operations, in-space facilities and more. 

Credit: NASA

 

Basic space infrastructure

Using only NASA’s current funding levels, the study presents a timeline for public-private development of basic space infrastructure, including fuel depots for space vehicles, a shuttle for travel to the moon, lunar facilities to resupply and aid construction in space, and an orbital facility complex that would be part of the foundation for large-scale space exploration, research and commercialization.

The 86-page study by two veterans of the private space industry — Jeff Greason and James Bennett — concludes the private sector’s long-term space efforts could be funded by self-sustaining commercial activities and supplemented by government contracts.

Jeff Greason was a founder and initial CEO of commercial space company XCOR Aerospace, with prior experience at Rotary Rocket and Intel.

James Bennett was a co-founder of two space-launch start-ups, Starstruck, Inc. and American Rocket Company, which pioneered hybrid rocket propulsion.

Space rock slips by Earth.
Courtesy: Texas A&M

Commercial potential

Areas of commercial potential discussed in the study includes:

Tapping space-based clean energy sources;

Mining asteroids for useful raw materials;

Developing safe venues for new scientific experiments;

Sequestering hazardous but valuable debris in space;

Tapping sources of water in space, for several important uses;

And using low-gravity and low-temperature properties of space for research and manufacturing.

Honey Bee Robotic asteroid capture for ISRU resource return, as viewed in this artist’s conception.
Credit: TransAstra Corporation

Reason Foundation’s nonpartisan public policy research promotes choice, competition and a dynamic market economy as the foundation for human dignity and progress.

Links to the study and related materials can be found here:

The Economics of Space: An Industry Ready to Launch (Executive Summary) By Jeff Greason and James Bennett

https://reason.org/policy-study/the-economics-of-space/

Full Study (.pdf)

https://reason.org/wp-content/uploads/economics-of-space.pdf

Robert Poole’s Overview: New Study Calls for Major Rethinking and Reorganization of U.S. Space Policy By Robert Poole, director of transportation policy and Searle Freedom Trust Transportation Fellow at Reason Foundation.

https://reason.org/commentary/new-study-calls-for-major-rethinking-and-reorganization-of-u-s-space-policy/

 

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