The Space Industry is dominated by some pillar organizations. NASA and its dinosaur-like contractors such as United Space Alliance, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman, make up the vast majority of space related activities in the US. They don’t often think in terms of the common good of the industry. They focus on projects, getting next years government budget money, and retention of jobs regardless of the big picture.
So what’s the Big Picture?
The big picture of Space Exploration is the creation of a Open Frontier. A society that participates in space exploration. Commercial, government, and private organizations all have reasonable access to explore our solar system and beyond.
It’s time to think of Space Exploration as an Eco System.
In nature, an Eco System is a group that shares the same habitat and has to function together for the system to be healthy.
In a Space Exploration Eco System there is a healthy distribution of effort, supply, resources (money in this case), and attention. Once a problem common to the whole Eco System is solved, that solution is shared with the whole system so that it can be built upon.
As a member of an Eco System, you are part of something bigger than yourself. Your efforts benefit the whole system. It’s not about you, it’s about the whole group. If the group thrives, you thrive.
The current Space Industry is dominated by a few big players who are fighting for their own relevance and survival as individuals. If they were fighting for the Eco System they would be thriving. It is easy to get tunnel vision when you are only looking out for your own survival.
So what does a healthy Space 2.0 Eco System look like?
Forward progress. We’re talking about exploration and industry here, not just contracts and jobs. Problems that should have been solved long ago need to be solved so we can use them to work on the next thing.
For example, one of the hardest parts of any Space related operation is getting from the surface of the Earth into earth orbit. That 200 miles or so requires much more energy (and money) than it takes to get the rest of the 240,000 miles to the moon. The entire industry needs cheap, reliable access to that first 200 miles.
The dinosaurs of the Space industry have enjoyed a relatively competition free 30 years of supplying us with reliable but not cheap rocket systems. Since the price hasn’t gone down, the number of flights hasn’t gone up. The opportunities in Space remain limited to those with very, very deep pockets.
Lowering the cost to orbit, however it’s done, opens the door to entire vertical markets we can’t even imagine right now. The total industry size will increase and the Eco System can be healthy again.
I’m not suggesting that companies with billions of dollars invested give away the farm in some sort of Utopian Socialist system. I am suggesting that we collectively realise that the industry is stalled and we need to start thinking of it as something all the players are a part of.
- Commercial Space
- Individuals in their garage
- AND Big Thinkers from other industries that haven’t had a chance to lend us their ideas, or to build on ours.
Calling it Space 2.0 represents a change in thinking. It means working toward broader goals, not individual goals.
It is an Eco System.