AIAA SPACE 2016 – Open Plenary

Space Commercialisation was the theme of the Open Plenary at the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics Forum and Exposition Long Beach, CA) and one of the recurrent themes throughout the programme (https://www.aiaa-space.org/)

The Open Plenary (September 13th) included Dr Charles F. Bolden Jr., NASA Administrator, Winston A. Beauchamp, Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for Space, and Steve Jurvetson, Managing Director, Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

Dr Bolden emphasised the notion of collaboration as essential to space endeavours. He referred to the International Space Station as a model of international collaboration and underlined the potential of the ISS for commercial space market, not just for human or cargo transportation but also as a possible testing ground for future private space stations.

Dr Bolden spoke about the journey to Mars, the consensus at international level that is building around this endeavour and the opportunities it will bring to commercial space through the technological and life support challenges that it will pose. In his intervention Dr Bolden indicated that by the mid 2020s the commercial space that is emerging in low earth Orbit should be self-sustaining, allowing NASA to focus its efforts on Mars and deep space exploration.

Deputy Under Secretary Winston B. Beauchamp underlined the connection between US defence needs and investment and the commercial development of space (notably launchers, communications and remote sensing) as well as the importance of keeping space safe and accessible to all.

Mr Beauchamp pointed out that there has been a transition in the nature of US relationships with its allies which is now more of two way collaboration, where the key words are exchange, inter-operability and, increasingly, co-development of new capacities. International collaboration is essential to ensure good space situational awareness for the safe and sustainable use of space. He indicated that there is a growing need for sharing data on spacecraft and debris as well as developing norms for how spacecraft are built and operated in order, for example, to make spacecraft more easily tracked, to determine orbits to be used so to as to reduce collision risk, and to ensure an adequate capacity for manoeuvring spacecraft once in space.

Steve Juvertson, is one of the founders of DFJ (http://dfj.com/) and venture capital investment company that has supported, inter alia, Space X and Planet.

Mr Juvertson in one of the recently appointed Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) (https://www.commerce.gov/news/press-releases/2016/06/us-secretary-commerce-penny-pritzker-applauds-announcement-four-new).

Mr Juvetson gave an interesting account of his experience and views as an investor underlining in particular that the key to attracting investors’ interest is the combination of new, truly disruptive ideas combined with solid business plans. Mr Jurvetson highlighted some of the aspects that contribute to commercial space development, including greater availability of components, lower cost of access to space, and the growing importance of software, noting in particular the tremendous progress in ground simulation which saves years of testing that were necessary in the past.

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