The human expansion in deep space is inevitable, industry experts say

An artist image of NASA’s Deep Space Gateway, which the space agency has as a goal for humanity to set foot in the ground for deep space exploration beyond Earth orbit.


That there will be a market for humanity’s expansion beyond the orbit of the Earth, industry experts said — but none of them can predict what form that market will take.

The International Space Station, in low orbit around the Earth, if humanity is not in the furthest corner in the room now. But the panelists gathered on Wednesday (Dec. 6) on the SpaceCom 2017 conference on the future of living and working in the space outside the job laboratory.

The predictions by experts from the industry are all the more relevant after President Donald Trump signed his Space Policy Directive 1 on Monday (Dec. 11), the order of NASA to return astronauts to the moon, then aim for the human exploration of Mars and other solar system destinations. [Deep Space Habitats: What They Might Look Like]

Before the panel, NanoRacks CEO Jeff Manber showed a new picture of his proposed solution: Ixion, a collaboration between his company, Loral Space Systems, and Space Adventures, working with a United Launch Alliance about how to reuse the spent upper stages of the Atlas V rockets as crew habitats. These stages, which include fuel and are ejected during the launch process, can link to the International space station, or be used alone.

More Of

  • Deep Space Habitats: What They Might Look Like

  • a new picture of his proposed solution: Ixion

  • NASA’s NextSTEP program

  • Space Adventures

“We have spent the last five months, looking to convince us and NASA that we can reuse of a fuel tank, while in the space,” Manber said in the control panel. “To our surprise, it seems quite possible that ( … ) [and], not only can we reuse the second phase, astronauts will once in a job and to turn it into a habitat, but also, equally cool to me, you can even do it without astronauts, robotically.”

That is not a new idea, he added, the united states considered something like that 50 years ago, but the technology was not safe to recycle rocket stages in orbit. Now, the Ixion collaboration is looking into the idea for a modern time with NASA’s NextSTEP program.

“There are plenty of developments in the 50 years, and the upper stage of the Atlas V is a good way to start, that we can now, for the eyes send to LEO,” Manber said, referring to a low orbit around the Earth. For “habitat, or the crew in LEO or the warehouses and factories of tomorrow in the deep space, we can think of it as a path that is proven, that is the market efficient, and it makes strong use of what the taxpayer has already been paid for.

“We are now looking at how we can do this in a commercial manner, and one of the clues is that one of our partners is [the space tourism business] Space Adventures,” Manber added.

Orbital ATK is also to take part in the NextSTEP program and their approach to the space habitats would be a redesign of their Cygnus cargo craft as a habitat module that can be added to NASA ‘ s Orion spacecraft or a larger space habitat.

“The last piece [for the craft development of] a deeper look into how cislunar could be extended in some commercial direction,” said Bob Richards, the vice-president of the advanced programs at Orbital ATK.

John Elbon, vice president and general manager, Boeing, said now that we have learned to live and work on the space station, it is time to move on, to continue; spacecraft such as the Boeing next Starliner will contribute to the creation of a sustainable economy in a low Earth orbit, and later to expand to the outside in the direction of the moon. NASA’s Deep Space Gateway programcould an anchor similar to the space station for the industry to expand to the outside. [Boeing Starliner Space Capsule in Photos]

But what are the logical steppingstones expansion of that market from a low Earth orbit, to the moon, and on a day in the direction of Mars?

“I love it when people … the word ‘logical’ and ‘new markets’ together,” Manber said. “It is not logical. There is no logic.” Manber in comparison with the industry in order to predict how the internet would develop in 1985. “There must be a certain degree of faith that our commercial market, the way we do business in America, and come up with solutions, because it always is.”

“It is a combination of the reform, the government as customer, to the LEO economy going, and observation of the Earth, improve life on Earth, the increase of in-space services, looking to see if asteroid mining and projects as it really is, and that’s the leap of faith,” he added.

Leave a low orbit around the Earth

Elbon had a different take: “Jeff and I have this discussion; I usually have the more pragmatic view of the situation, I think.”

He warned that there are a lot of opportunities for companies to test things in a low orbit around the Earth, and that it’s dangerous to overextend or dismissal from the space station to early.

“I think it’s important that we not gambling with our future in a low Earth orbit to much of a build-it-and-they-will-come approach,” he said. “ISS is the place where now we have an incubator for that kind of commercial requirements, and we have to make sure that that goes as a place where companies that have the potential ideas can test them out … if we pull the rug out from under [the space station, the commercial possibilities] too fast, it will falter before it gets going. That transition, it is really important for us to think and do work.”

Staffing a space revolution

Barton Bolfrass, the CEO of Fathom Academy, has a crush on the supply of workers for all these space companies are company to build underwater training facilities so that people can learn how to build habitats, repair satellites, and to do construction outside of the spaceship.

“We [at Fathom Academy is] not of train-D. Ph. s, we do not train pilots — we create a workforce for space,” he said. “We are currently asking surgeons to build our hospitals in the area. Just as it would be surprising to drive by a construction site and [see] surgeons, or chefs construction of the hospitals or in the restaurants, we need the scientists, but scientists need assistants. Officers must be men, chefs needed sous chefs.

“The biggest hurdle that our industry is suffering since we set foot on the moon is the accessibility,” he added. “People have to care about it to want to go ahead and continue to do so, … [and] the excitement dies the moment you leave the ground without them. To be able to say that I have a chance to go, I can go, that there is something for me to go, that is where I think the commercial aspect of our industry will go from a trickle to a flow to an explosion of interest.”

Richards pointed out that the U.S. is opening the space station to commercial experiments as a national lab is jump-started with massive amounts of small businesses and new ideas … [and that] works closely with the government to come up with solutions is the right way to go.”

“I think that the NextSTEP program is built about right for the beginning of that,” he added.

The panel moderator Jason Crusan, director of NASA’s advanced exploration systems division, which manages NextSTEP, added that the creation of sufficient demand to build an economy in space, while encouraging exploration, is an important consideration, and care.

“Demand generation is probably one of the biggest things that keeps me awake at night: What is that for question model is going to be,” he said. “There is not a logical step. One of the things that we try to do is build an ecosystem for economic experiments. How do we, as a government agency, drop-down barriers, reducing costs to do experiments, all the different things we can do to an ecosystem for experimentation to occur outside the government.

“We are shifting the whole way in which we deal with the industry,” he added. “We are actually moving in a concert together — we can’t go too fast, that they don’t go too fast; we have to learn and experiment together.”

Original article on

Follow us

Don't be shy, get in touch. We love meeting interesting people and making new friends.

Most popular