Reviving the Office of Space Commercialization

It looks like the administration and Department of Commerce are finally serious about reviving the Office of Space Commercialization, which has been in stasis the last couple of years. Early this month the DoC named Ed Morris, formerly of Orbital Sciences Corporation, as the office’s new director, and the office now has issued a job posting for three program analysts. What initiatives the office plans to undertake haven’t been announced, but I’ve heard indications that there may be more of a focus on existing service industries—such as communications, remote sensing, and navigation—than on some of the more emerging fields, like space tourism and other suborbital space applications. If that’s the case, I’d argue that the emphasis be reversed: smaller, entrepreneurial ventures might benefit more from the office’s promotional efforts than larger established companies, which can afford (and do) a lot more on their own—especially if the office’s budget is relatively small, as appears to be the case at least for FY06.

What, if anything, do you think the office should do to help established or emerging space businesses in the US? (Note that I have no plans to work in the office myself, so I’m not trolling for ideas; I just want to throw this out there for debate.)

13 comments to Reviving the Office of Space Commercialization

  • That’s easy. Fight to take export control of civilian space technologies out of the State Department and back into Commerce where it belongs.

    — Donald

  • Dennis Ray Wingo

    We also need to get Zero G Zero Tax passed.

    I have been offered money in both Europe (subsidy) and in Malaysia (no taxes) to set up my space business there.

    Why the heck can’t we promote business here in the U.S.?


  • I see that Tim Kyger didn’t get the job. Too bad.

  • How about a Commerce Department prize for the newspace firm that is the most profitable?

  • I agree, Rand. I think he would have been ideal.

    — Donald

  • Dennis Ray Wingo

    Hey if you want to see what NASA thinks of commercialization, look at this link from spaceref for NASA’s version of the ISS cargo system.


    I guess the COTS procurement was just an afterthought to the agency.


  • Nemo2


    At first, I thought this was just the engine development program for their heavy lift upperstage. But I went down the page and saw your real point — the “Releasable Cargo Pallet” that carries upwards of 20 FRAMs. FRAMs are for ISS.

    This has got to be a billion-dollar development program, minimum, since it will need to be certified for ISS operations. Maybe more considering MSFC’s recent track record. It is also likely to take much longer than MSFC thinks it will take. (Think ATV development costs and schedule).

    Since this is clearly a non-starter, in terms of budget availability and schedule, wouldn’t this study money be better spent on COTS? NASA might be able to fund an additional COTS demonstration (or since this is a study, they could fund design studies of the runner-ups to keep their engines idling), creating more competition (lowering long-term prices) and lowering the overall COTS program risk.

    Alternatively, they could use the funds to:
    1) Pay for some Methane engine development (since it is an engine development program)
    2) Put some money back into science
    3) Pick your favorite program that is being cut

    – Nemo2

  • Dennis Ray Wingo


    Since when does NASA make sense?


  • Mike Puckett

    I think Keith got his pictures mixed up.

    The CaLV using the expendable SSME is the Heavy Lifter 125MT booster.

    The pictures are for the cargo delivery module for the ISS delivered via the stick.

  • Jim Muncy

    Dennis & Nemo2,

    Mike is correct. Keith is mixing up the CaLV and the CDV. The CDV is the unpressurized cargo-delivering variant of the CEV. The CDV was taken out of the CEV “call for improvements” that NorBo and Lockmart are currently finishing their proposals for.

    This procurement is simply an announcement of the cheapo-version of the SSME which will be used in the 1st stage of the CaLV.

    – Jim

    P.S. I’m neither endorsing nor attacking the CaLV. The fact that NASA removed the CDV from the CEV contractor procurement is a very good sign for COTS offerors.

  • Edward Wright

    > I guess the COTS procurement was just an afterthought to the agency.

    Don’t forget cutting the Centennial Challenges budget request from $35 million to $10 million in FY07.

    After NASA failed to answer repeated questions from the Senate about Centennial Challenges funding, resulting in the funding being zeroed for FY06.

    And you wonder why I don’t trust NASA any more?

  • Sandra Baker

    “I think Keith got his pictures mixed up.”

    That cannot be true. He never makes mistakes.

  • Regarding space commercialization, I get a sad little journal called Business-2.0 dumped on my doorstep because I once subscribed to an outstanding “new business” magazine called Red Herring. The latter went out of business and sold their subscription list to the former. Business-2.0 is no Red Herring or even Wired — it is just about as bad as you would expect from the name and for something from the publishers of Time Magazine.

    The current issue has a survey called “The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Outer Space.” There is nothing here that anyone reading this list — or any entrepreneur interested in our field — won’t already know. While generally accurate, the articles could have benefited from a final proof by someone knowledgeable in commercial space. What is interesting is to see it all in one place. All the things going on “out there” make a surprisingly impressive list.

    — Donald