Commercial Space Exploration Could Lead to Global Growth

As the commercial space exploration industry continues to innovate and achieve, the possibilities for the future are as limitless as the cosmos themselves.


Air Date: December 1, 2020

Moderator: Tom Donohue, CEO, The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Carolyn Cawley, President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, George Pullen, Chief Space Economist, Christian Zur, Former Executive Director, Procurement and Space Industry Council

Featured Guests: Dennis Gatens, CEO & Co-Founder, LEOCloud, Alain Berinstain, Ph.D., Chief Strategy Officer, Space Tango, Doug Hulse, Space Mission Program Manager, Millennium Space Systems

The space industry has already proven itself central to the American economy. Space-enabled technology such as location-based services and 5G networks have become necessities in today’s increasingly digital world.

As the commercial space sector continues to innovate and achieve, the possibilities for the future are as limitless as the cosmos themselves.

Investing in Low Earth Orbit Operations Is Key to Human Space Exploration

Christopher J. Ferguson, CST-100 director of crew and mission systems at Boeing, discussed the importance of investing in low earth orbit operations.

“Low earth orbit is high enough so that you’re above 99.999% of the atmosphere,” Ferguson explained. “You want to be above most of that, but you also be within the protective layers of the Earth’s magnetosphere, which limits the radiation exposure to astronauts if they were to be there for long periods of time.”

“[Low earth orbit operations] have given us an opportunity to practice what it’s like to work long-duration spaceflight, to understand the way the human body reacts … to perfect our food supply, to understand the psychological implications, and of course to do science,” he continued. “So access to low earth orbit is essential.”

Space Force Continues to Increase Engagement With the Commercial World

As our country continues to expand space exploration and technology, the U.S. Space Force has been tasked with protecting and advancing our country’s interests. One such means of this is procuring commercial services within the space industry.

“We’re really leaning into what America needs [and] doing a lot to engage with the commercial world,” said U.S. Space Force secretary Barbara M. Barrett. “We have been engaged for generations with the traditional providers to the United States Military, but we’re also now leveraging a lot of non-traditional commercial providers.”

She cited the success of International Pitch Day, in which young startup companies presented their business to the U.S. Air Force and Space Force, many receiving contracts within minutes.

“We’re diversifying our sources and we’re multiplying our solutions,” Barrett noted. “It’s really a pretty exciting time in the space business.”

We Must Leverage Commercial Innovation to Address National Security and Intelligence Needs

The adoption of commercial systems within the U.S. government provides a unique opportunity to address national security and intelligence needs. However, it does not come without its challenges. John Serafini, CEO of HawkEye360, discussed the areas in which positive change can be enacted.

“The U.S. government and its stakeholders have long embraced a traditional format of acquisition, focused on solving specific requirements at specific fixed points in time,” he stated. “We want the U.S. government to think more creatively toward a hybrid architecture … [with] a larger area of focus for commercial capabilities that leverage private, non-taxpayer dollars.”

Serafini stressed that once governments embrace this hybrid architecture, they should also go through the proper research and evaluation processes with each contract. For top companies, building programs of record through Congress can help them successfully scale their operations to meet the needs of the commercial space industry.

Finally, Serafini noted that matching business and technical innovation alone isn’t enough: “We need to match that with procurement innovation and continuing to emphasize … new and unique contract vehicles.”

The Artemis Program Aims to Get Boots on the Moon by 2024

One of the most exciting recent ventures into space exploration is the Artemis program by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which aims to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024. Kathryn Lueders, associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, discussed the timeline and vision of the program.

“Our mission of having boots on the moon in 2024, that journey starts with us getting through our un-crewed demonstration missions, and then our crude demonstration missions,” she explained. “We’re working on our Artemis One and Two, getting our launch vehicle and spacecraft proven for the missions.”

“NASA people don’t do easy things, they do hard things,” she added. “There’s going to be a ton of work for us to go and move toward this path to get to that human landing demonstration mission in 2024, but it all starts with making sure that the first steps go right.”