Monday, April 15, 2013

NASA BUILDS AMERICA - Commericalization of Space, the second time around

Most people don’t see the big picture, but looking back to the 1980’s - private companies had started launching satellites into orbit without the government watching, how did that happen? It was a long process that begun as early as 1956 and Sputnik. When NASA was launched it was given several mandates that remain under its purview today. From human space flight initiatives, robotic missions, enhancing aeronautics/air transport safety-efficiency-speed, earth satellites for monitoring the environment, communications satellites, an orbital workshop (Skylab then, now ISS), and a reusable spacecraft for traveling to & from Earth’s orbit. In addition to these, the first commercialization of space took place starting in 1962 with the launch of TeleStar 1 which was funded by AT & T and Bell Labs and was capable of relaying television across the Atlantic Ocean. Still, the government handled the launch.

Two years later Hughes Aircraft developed Syncom 3, a communications satellite. A couple more years and Hughes placed the Intelsat 1 communications satellite in orbit. The commercial space industry didn’t develop over night, but NASA ingenuity was shared and as private companies were tutored in the necessary skill set, they grew stronger and were eventually able to offer and purchase space launches, thus beginning the period of private spaceflight. While the Communications Satellite Act of 1962 opened up the skies to the satellites, the launches remained for a time on government vehicles. It wasn’t until the mid-1980s that the private sector spread its wings and took on unmanned launches.

Now this commercialization has grown even more as private interests toward reach the sky, other planets and to extend our growth beyond Earth. Again NASA is there. There to help with sponsorship though a series of programs to help along and encourage private companies. Thanks to this not only is the technology moving forward (Consider SpaceX and their re-usable rockets), different methods explored (Virgin Galactic and their feathered wings), but also methods of habitable stations are planned (Bigelow Aerospace). Basically space and America have become synonymous.

Next slated in the commercialization of near earth space, Orbital Sciences. As many barriers of been brought down between the corporations, NASA and space by companies such as SpaceX, the launch of the Antares rocket later this month now seems as if no big deal. Au contraire; it is a test or practice run of the entire process. A two stage rocket, the Antares will carry its make believe load (mimicking its load for later this year). A curious other passenger is the satellites that NASA has strapped on board – three satellites born of many similar pieces to that of a smartphone, engineers are testing them in a two week flight to test battery life and temperature.

As the commercialization aspect of NASA’s venture with several space companies continues to expand, Wallops Island, just south of the Maryland and Virginia border, expands its launching format from a history of 21 satellite launches as well as a training site for crews from other countries to learn the satellite launch business. Space is becoming a big business with privately funded launches for commercial lifters (such as Scout and Conestoga) having been negotiated.

The Big Business That is Space

There are many areas in which different nations excel and it has isn’t many in which the US can claim a coveted top spot. According to the Times and a graphic the spelled out where America stood in 2013, things do not look good. With our president and our congress at odds that seem to contradict progress, things have been looking dim- BUT THE US IS STILL NO# ONE IN SPACE TECHNOLOGY – and now with the commercialization effort we are seeing the number of American Companies that have the right stuff! From Bigelow Aerospace to SpaceX to DSI (Deep Space Industries) or Space Resources and their bold plan to mine an asteroid, there is no shortage of future jobs.

NASA has been there right from the start helping to push our companies along. AND the technologies that they bring are not just related to space alone but also technologies that can be specifically used here in earth or offer cross over technologies. People tend to forget all we have in NASA, and also tend to be short sighted in where we will be without them. From protecting us from future threat from meteors to exoskeleton suits that allow paraplegics’ to walk (okay, and astronauts to exercise in space); it is time we realized that NASA Builds America

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