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NewSpace—formerly alt.space; also new space, entrepreneurial space, astropreneurship, and commercial space—are umbrella terms for a movement and philosophy encompassing and somewhat synonymous with, yet ultimately substantially broader than, a highly visible, globally emerging, private spaceflight industry. Specifically, the terms are used to refer to a global sector of relatively new, distinctly commercially-minded, aerospace companies and ventures working to independently (of governments and their prime or major contractors, i.e., Old Space) develop faster, better, and cheaper access to space, space and spaceflight technologies, and overall space missions—again, all largely driven by commercial, as distinct from political or other, motivations. (However, many view the commercial aspects of NewSpace as simply the best means to broader, more socioeconomically-oriented, NewSpace ends; notably, the settlement of Mars and space colonization, generally.) These terms also naturally extend to the worldwide community of designers, refiners, promoters, and advocates of building-block concepts, architectures, systems, technologies, missions, programs, protocols, and policies that enable and support NewSpace activities across all relevant dimensions.
- 1 Overview
- 2 History
- 3 Industry verticals
- 4 Governmental environment
- 5 Business ecosystem
- 6 References
- 7 See also
As with any new phenomenon, NewSpace currently defies easy description; its shape-shifting contours are still evolving, in flux, and otherwise not well-settled. As of a 2016 Forbes article, for example, the full definitional-scope of NewSpace remains somewhat elusive:
People may not know exactly what 'NewSpace' is. But they know they are excited about it. [...] [T]he spotlight [is] understandably on low-cost and visionary commercial space technologies. But the concept is more than that.
While there is no internationally accepted technical definition of 'NewSpace', principally, the ethos of the movement has been to challenge the traditional ways of space exploration that are widely considered as too expensive, time-consuming, and lacking in room for inventive risk-taking.
Again, despite the lack of a precise definition of NewSpace, according to a NASA presentation titled "NewSpace: The 'Emerging' Commercial Space Industry" at least this much seems clear:
We are at a turning point in the history of space exploration and development—the cusp of a revolution, new industries are being born that use space in many different ways [...] The established military industrial space sector is no longer the only game in town [...] Increased competition and new capabilities will change the market place forever [...] Everyone interested in working in the space sector will be [a]ffected
NewSpace Relative To Old Space
For convenience, and for now, NewSpace tends to be thought of and talked about in juxtaposition to Old Space; that is, NewSpace is what Old Space is not.
From an industrial organization perspective, NewSpace is nominally a fundamentally disruptive force—a Schumpeterian gale of creative destruction—vis-à-vis Old Space. NewSpace firms apply entrepreneurial vision and imagination, and moxie and methods, with the common goals (or at least net effect) of reducing prohibitive costs and other barriers to entry, creating new markets and profit incentives, and otherwise improving the basic economics of space endeavors, sufficient to expand the commercial, scientific, leisure/recreational, humanitarian, and other sheer possibilities of space. "The space sector has entered a renaissance period, ripe with growth, new ideas, new players...and disruption" all of which loosely define NewSpace.
From an all-important industry culture perspective, NewSpace denizens tend to think of themselves as exciting and inventive dreamers, while considering their Old Space counterparts to be, in stark contrast, hidebound bureaucrats. However, the psychographic divide between Old Space and NewSpace may be somewhat narrower than that; complicated by, for example, the fact that Wernher von Braun, the NASA engineer and chief architect behind the Saturn V and Apollo moon landing—thus a veritable icon of Old Space—was known as a consummate dreamer, as the titular theme of Michael J. Neufeld's biography "Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War" makes plain. "As a youth he [von Braun] became enamored with the possibilities of space exploration by reading the science fiction of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells...." Von Braun's later friendship with Walt Disney, a fellow American visionary and kindred spirit who conspicuously embraced fantasy and science fiction as creative forces and fairly embodied the concept and philosophy of Imagineering, also buttresses this contention. Moreover, von Braun was one of the first to chart a serious plan for reaching and settling Mars (as described in his 1952 book "The Mars Project"), a space mission that has come to virtually define the NewSpace generation.
Likewise, "[f]rom his early years in New Jersey," Gemini 12 and Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin—now a vocal advocate for expeditious Mars colonization and developer of the new Cycling Pathways to Mars mission architecture (Aldrin holds a Ph.D. in Astronautics from MIT)—"was fascinated by the outer space adventures of [sci-fi characters] Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon...." (In a karmic twist, Aldrin himself later became an inspiring Disney-esque sci-fi character through his alter-ego Buzz Lightyear of Disney-Pixar's Toy Story franchise, complete with rallying cry "To infinity...and beyond!".) Indeed, throughout the years, many NASA astronauts, engineers, scientists, and others have professed to being Trekkies (die-hard fans of the science fiction media franchise, Star Trek) growing up, and have openly credited Star Trek with firing their imaginations and aspirations regarding space science, engineering, and exploration. According to David Allen Batchelor, a physicist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, the unique appeal of Star Trek to professional and otherwise accomplished space scientists is the plausible interplay between real and imaginary science:
I'm a [NASA] physicist and many of my colleagues watch Star Trek. [...] The real science [in Star Trek] is an effort to be faithful to humanity's greatest achievements, and the fanciful science is the playing field for a game that expands the mind as it entertains. The Star Trek series are the only science fiction series crafted with such respect for real science and intelligent writing. That's why it's the only science fiction series that many scientists watch regularly...."
Like the "romance" and adventure of flight that have played an important and recurring role in the otherwise serious industrial development of aviation from its earliest days, the primal driving forces of science fiction, fantasy, and creative imagination in nominally technically-austere space travel were thus well recognized and embraced by Old Space long before NewSpace came into being. The titular theme of a 2017 CNBC article on the NewSpace firm Mars One, for example, represents merely the continuation of this melding of science drama and space travel in the NewSpace age: "Like Elon Musk, this entrepreneur [Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp] is betting on Mars but his business model is more like Disney than SpaceX" Indeed, through his ShareSpace Foundation, Old Space icon (turned NewSpace advocate) Buzz Aldrin has been a strong proponent of STEAM education, an acronym that adds an "A" for "arts" to the otherwise familiar STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) curriculum, based on Aldrin's belief in the vital synergy between the creative arts and technical disciplines in human progress.
According to a 2017 CNBC article, aviation-entrepreneur-turned-NewSpace-astropreneur (Virgin Galactic) Sir Richard Branson said that, of all the leadership and other books he has read, the one book that really "changed his life" was Peter Pan, the classic fairy tale by J.M. Barri, which Branson, like countless others, first read as a child: "I've drawn a lot of inspiration from the book.... I've never really wanted to grow up and I've always wanted to fly!" Indeed, Branson seriously "credits much of his [entrepreneurial] success to 'thinking like a toddler'" in the sense that "kids [like successful entrepreneurs] 'see opportunities where adults often see obstacles.'"
In a similarly counter-intuitive (albeit somewhat more lighthearted) vein, Bobak Ferdowsi, a millennial MIT-trained systems engineer and flight director at NASA, became an Internet sensation when he was spotted leading his project team while sporting a colorful Mohawk hairstyle in NASA's JPL control room during the successful August 6, 2012 landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars. Ferdowsi not only shattered the old image of the NASA "white–socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer" —in the process becoming something of a social media heartthrob—but was eventually even dubbed the Mohawk Guy by President Barack Obama. In a congratulatory call to NASA on the success of the Curiosity mission, President Obama joked:
I understand there is a special mohawk [hairstyle] guy working on the mission. [...] It does sound like NASA has come a long way from the white shirt, black dark-rimmed glasses and the pocket protectors. You guys [NASA professionals] are a bit cooler than you used to be.
In a sign of further expected convergence of Old Space and NewSpace, on December 21, 2016, it was reported that Peter Thiel, a billionaire Silicon Valley entrepreneur and venture capitalist, had successfully advised then-president-elect Donald Trump to include on his NASA transition team three well-known NewSpace advocates, all of whom reportedly "favor the type of public-private partnerships [Old Space combined with NewSpace] exemplified by Elon Musk's [SpaceX]": Alan Stern, Alan Lindenmoyer (ex-NASA), and Charles Miller (ex-NASA). Aside from enabling major U.S. space projects to benefit from what could be the best of both worlds—the cutting-edge innovation and speed of development attributable to NewSpace, coupled with the safety and reliability associated with Old Space—some commercial space advocates, such as U.S. Representative Brian Babin (R., Texas), also see public-private partnerships as a type of voluntarily initiated, NewSpace-industry "oversight technique" that may be better than a "rigid, government-imposed regulatory structure," driven by a "'check the box' mentality," for striking the balance between allowing and promoting the rapid, globally competitive, and otherwise economically desirable growth of NewSpace, and ensuring the public's safety (as well as safeguarding the public's other pertinent interests). Shortly before his inauguration, then-president-elect Trump reportedly began showing more than a passing interest in a national space mission to Mars reminiscent of the Apollo program of the 1960s and early '70s; for example, by meeting with Elon Musk, a prominent representative at large of NewSpace, to reportedly "discuss Mars and public-private partnerships," and discussing with the historian Douglas Brinkley the then-president-elect's interest in "John F. Kennedy's vow to send humans to the moon," citing positively the all-hands effort behind the Apollo moon landing as uniting the country and exemplifying the spirit of the American people. Although there was some vague speculation that then soon-to-be President Trump might more closely emulate JFK's 1962 We choose to go to the Moon speech with an express call for a national Mars mission in his 2017 inaugural address, in the end President Trump offered a substantially more condensed and broader call—but a call nonetheless—for greater American space exploration:
Finally, we must think big and dream even bigger. In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving. [...] No challenge can match the...spirit of America. We will not fail. [...] We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space....
(Whether intentional or not, the phrase "We will not fail" in President Trump's inaugural speech echos the famous "Failure is not an option" sentiment loosely attributed to NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz, leader of the highly challenging, but ultimately successful, Apollo 13 rescue mission.)
President Trump, in his first address to a joint session of Congress, appeared to reiterate his call for American space exploration leadership by first harkening back to the "creations" of America's "builders and artists and inventors" marking the country's centennial celebration—Alexander Graham Bell's telephone, Remington's typewriter, [Thomas] Edison's automatic telegraph—and then asking Americans to "[i]magine the wonders our country could know in America's 250th year....[t]hink of the marvels we can achieve if we simply set free the dreams of our people" before declaring (among other things): "American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream." (President Trump's imagery of "American footprints on distant worlds" suggests his favoring of manned space exploration by apparently evoking the iconic bootprint images of Neil Armstrong's and Buzz Aldrin's first steps on the moon, the culmination of NASA's Apollo 11 mission—"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind"—as well as those of the American astronauts that followed.)
On March 21, 2017, President Trump signed the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 into law, during a ceremony featuring U.S. astronauts Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Chris Cassidy (NASA Chief of the Astronaut Office), as well as various bill co-sponsors, including former U.S. presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), representing states that host NASA's Johnson Space Center and Kennedy Space Center, respectively. Among other things, the Act "adds a manned mission to Mars as one of [NASA's] goals" and "suggests NASA will prioritize public-private partnerships, grabbing additional funding for human space flight from private companies." During the signing ceremony, President Trump "placed a lot of emphasis on the commercial space industry" remarking, "This bill...orders NASA to continue...transitioning activities to the commercial sector where we have seen great progress. It's amazing what's going on.
In a 2017 statement about SpaceX's groundbreaking plans for a privately-crewed (two private citizens) 2018 circumlunar mission, NASA expressed its general views regarding Old Space, NewSpace, and public-private partnerships between the two:
NASA commends its industry partners for reaching higher. [...] For more than a decade, NASA has invested in private industry to develop capabilities for the American people and seed commercial innovation to advance humanity's future in space. [...] NASA is changing the way it does business through its commercial partnerships to help build a strong American space economy and free the agency to focus on developing the next-generation rocket, spacecraft and systems to go beyond the moon and sustain deep space exploration.
On February 9, 2017, it was reported that the United Kingdom government, through efforts led by U.K. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and U.K. Science Minister Jo Johnson, has introduced a public-private partnership program offering £10 million in grants to U.K.-based NewSpace firms aiming to develop local spaceports, and indigenous satellite launch and space tourism capabilities and services, among other NewSpace initiatives; the U.K. has also reportedly begun laying companion legislation to "facilitate and regulate" commercial spaceflight in a comprehensive bid to "win [the new] space race" and "see the UK space sector flourish...[in order] to be able to access this lucrative [global space] market" by building on the U.K.'s "strengths in science, research and innovation."
Business Nature of NewSpace
Speaking to the outsize dimensions (and relative ripeness) of the commercial opportunity represented by NewSpace, CNBC, in 2017, made reference to "the white-hot global space sector that the FAA estimates is a combined $324 billion, and what some argue could become the first trillion-dollar industry;" adding, "[i]ndustry players believe space exploration is due for a quantum leap, with commercial test launches abounding this year." Likewise, space entrepreneur Peter Diamandis predicted in 2015 that the world's first trillionaire—which analysts expect to emerge in the next two decades—will come from the NewSpace sector and community which now include Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Sir Richard Branson, Paul Allen, Mark Zuckerberg, Yuri Milner, Larry Page, Eric Schmidt, Robert Bigelow, Naveen Jain, James Cameron, Charles Simonyi, Ross Perot Jr., Masayoshi Son, and a growing number of other global movers and shakers with legitimate trillionaire potential. In an August 2016 interview with Michael Chui, a San Francisco-based partner at the McKinsey Global Institute, venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson, a founding partner of Draper Fisher Jurvetson on Sand Hill Road in Silicon Valley, revealed "what he [Jurvetson] considers hot sectors," including what Jurvetson thinks "could be the biggest start-up of all: space." Indeed, developing outer space has grown to become one of the signal leitmotifs of the entire contemporary Silicon Valley culture, according to Alexandra Wolfe, author of Valley of the Gods: A Silicon Valley Story.
Amazon is an amazing company and Bezos [also founder of Blue Origin] has changed the world with it.... But it's nothing compared to, say, colonizing Mars and creating a second place on which a substantial number of humans live. That's big. If you have grand goals of how to change the world, there's nothing bigger than space.
Seattle Times journalist Sandi Doughton's 2012 interview of planetary scientist John S. Lewis captures arguably the five key features currently defining NewSpace: (a) the nominally spectacular size and sweeping scope of the NewSpace opportunity; (b) the attraction of NewSpace for many of the world's most visible billionaire-entrepreneurs; (c) the knee-jerk skepticism, particularly among Old Space observers, of the typically audacious plans and claims of NewSpace companies in the face of often severe (at least initially so) challenges; (d) the rough division of labor conceptually demarcating NewSpace (focused on "mass-produced technology" and "cheaper launch services") from Old Space (hallmark being "enormously expensive, one-of-a-kind space vessels"); and (e) the intra-sectoral synergies and virtuous cycles that enable NewSpace companies to feed off of one another's complementary innovations, daring, and energy for mutual survival and success. From a 2017 CNBC article on the bullish NewSpace sentiments of senior Goldman Sachs (Wall Street investment bank) aerospace analyst Noah Poponak:
A new space age is emerging, and the so-called space economy will become a multitrillion-dollar industry within the next two decades, Goldman Sachs is telling its clients.
NewSpace Around the World
While the locus of NewSpace activity may currently be the U.S. (Silicon Valley, Seattle, Mojave), various technical, political, and business imperatives (e.g., optimal launch siting, international trade considerations, local markets worldwide, etc.), as well as the historically shared global interest in space exploration and development, tend to make NewSpace all but inherently multinational. In 2001, in the midst of the post-Soviet U.S.-Russian commercial space venture phase of NewSpace industry development, the FAA/AST predicted that "[i]f the...launch industry continues to evolve in this way, it may be possible that within a few years an American launch vehicle with Russian engines will be launching a Japanese payload from a launch site in Australia."
In announcing the U.K. government's 2017 public-private partnership program for local NewSpace industry development, it was reported that "Newquay in Cornwall is among the front-runners to host Britain's first spaceport," along with four other potential sites in Scotland and one in Wales, all of which presumably best meet the U.K. government's requirement of hosting both vertical and horizontal launches (i.e., launch pads and runways); British billionaire and industrialist Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic and the Dutch-founded Xcor were also cited as exemplary home- or regionally-sprouted, global NewSpace industry champions.
NewSpace is also starting to figure prominently in China's grand "ambitions to forge itself into a major space power by the early 2030s," according to a 2017 CNBC article titled "China's secret plan to crush SpaceX and the U.S. space program" which describes China's two-pronged, global competitive strategy:
Alongside ongoing efforts to rival NASA by placing robotic landers, and eventually astronauts, on the moon and Mars, China's government is increasingly looking to its burgeoning space sector to rival U.S. companies like Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and Elon Musk's SpaceX.... [...] [A] push within Xi's government to triple spending on space science as well as the emergence of a small but growing group of privately backed space start-ups suggest that both Chinese industry and government see long-term economic benefits in their investments in space technologies. That increasing flow of capital toward both China's state-run and private space-related tech companies could place increased pressure on NASA, and eventually on commercial space companies in the United States and Europe. [...] [W]hile China's space program has historically served as a state-driven enterprise to demonstrate the nation's technological prowess, China is now looking to its space program to pay economic dividends as well.
The Space Race, which began in the mid-1950s and gave birth in earnest to spaceflight, was famously a manifestation of the then larger politico-economic competition between capitalism (represented by the United States) and communism (represented by the former Soviet Union). For this reason, from the very beginning the American business establishment—particularly those bellwether private firms directly involved in the U.S. space program—has championed the private development of space and space activity. In 1961, writing as one of the deans of the American business establishment, Ralph J. Cordiner, then Chairman of General Electric (a blue-chip, charter-prime contractor to NASA and the U.S. space program), contributed a chapter titled "Competitive Private Enterprise in Space" to the anthology Peacetime Uses of Outer Space. While recognizing at the time the realities of having to initially rely on the U.S. government's vast and convenient organization, resources, and power in order to effectively address the immediate Soviet space challenge, Cordiner nonetheless advocated private sector dominance—ultimately—of space activity, consistent with textbook American capitalist ideals.
In fact, Syncom, Hughes Aircraft Company's pioneering commercial communications satellite system, was originally conceived as a direct competitive response by American private industry to the Soviet's successful deployment of Sputnik in 1957, the iconic Cold War event that triggered the Space Race. While Syncom was eventually successfully deployed in 1963, Dr. Harold Rosen, the Hughes engineer responsible for developing, championing, and spearheading Syncom (also brother of Ben Rosen, a pioneering Silicon Valley venture capitalist and entrepreneur, and Wall Street technology analyst), cited a general lack of confidence in the U.S. government's early launch capabilities, in later explaining the Syncom project's lengthy gestation period:
This was not the most auspicious time [late 1950s] to propose a commercial space program.... The most vivid impression most people then had of space-related activities was of rockets blowing up at Cape Canaveral
1980s → U.S. Commercial Space Policy and Enabling Legislation
Notwithstanding the free-enterprise sentiments and preferences of American industry, space remained a firmly government-controlled and -directed endeavor well after the capstone Apollo moon landing in 1969. The term "alt.space" was first used in the early 1980s to describe companies that were at last beginning to take up Cordiner's mantle and make serious efforts to reach outer space without needing or relying on the cooperation of NASA or other governmental agencies (or, by extension, even their major contractors); efforts which were catalyzed by an historic shift in U.S. policy favoring private space activity, culminating in the landmark Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984. Beyond the terminology—"alt.space", "private space", "NewSpace," or "new space"—since the 1980s, the philosophy of various organizations (such as the Space Frontier Foundation in the United States) has been one of "extolling the virtues of Solar System settlement and operating independent of bureaucratic government programs."
1990s → Post-Soviet U.S.-Russian Private Space Ventures
Ironically, the seeds of today's NewSpace were brought to fruition by the collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1991 and the releasing of that former rival-superpower's iconic, state-owned, and otherwise mature and proven space assets, technologies, capabilities, and services onto the world's private markets with the assistance of a handful of largely American private firms; notably these core-four: International Launch Services (f/k/a Lockheed-Khrunichev-Energia Int'l; Lockheed Martin JV; Proton; est. 1993); Commercial Space Management Co. (CSMC; Energia, Zenit, RD-170; est. 1993); Sea Launch (Boeing JV; Zenit; est. 1995); and MirCorp (Mir, Soyuz, Progress; est. 1999). Until that moment in world industrial history, no private business enterprise or entrepreneur could rightly conceive of, for example, leasing—or possibly owning and operating—an orbiting space station, such as Mir, or even just ordering a space launch in the ordinary course of business.
(Until then, even for a telecommunications giant, like AT&T, placing a commercial communications satellite on orbit, for example, was a fairly monumental undertaking. Contrast that with today, when a $100 million space launch vehicle can now be specified, built, priced, ordered, and eventually even launched online through, for example, United Launch Alliance's RocketBuilder website.)
Once that industry-wide mental block was removed—once the ease (relatively speaking) and normalization of planning and conducting space activities began to dawn on private industry—the animal spirits of aerospace capitalism were roused, entrepreneurial vision and imagination started to abound, and NewSpace began to take shape in earnest. Which set off today's competitive, industry-wide, virtuous cycle of "faster, better, cheaper" (a project and systems management philosophy pioneered in the space field by NASA); and otherwise paved the way to today's generally far more vibrant and conducive space-business environment—whether or not involving Russian space resources, at this point—where entrepreneurs, investors, regulators, lawmakers, supranational organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the media, and other key ecosystem participants are now able to deal with privately conducted, for-profit space activity more rationally, practically, and cost-efficiently than ever before. (Wernher von Braun summed up the historical institutional-bureaucratic cautiousness toward space activity in general by famously quipping, "We can lick gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming.")
In his 2016 Wall Street Journal review of Julian Guthrie's book How to Make a Spaceship: A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race, and the Birth of Private Spaceflight, Gregg Easterbrook highlighted the seminal importance of these often overlooked post-Soviet private space efforts in enabling and shaping today's NewSpace. "How to Make a Spaceship" centers largely around the efforts of space entrepreneur, Peter Diamandis, and his Ansari X Prize won in 2004 by the SpaceShipOne team led by American aerospace engineer Burt Rutan, and funded by Microsoft co-founder and billionaire Paul Allen (SpaceShipTwo was then funded by British billionaire and industrialist Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic). To set the stage, Guthrie retraces the private space industry's development path; however, according to Easterbrook:
Mr. Diamandis wasn't the sole entrepreneur to pursue private space flight [early on]. Ms. Guthrie covers other, peculiar attempts.... Neglected in Ms. Guthrie's account is Sea Launch [archetypal post-Soviet Boeing JV with Russians and others], the first private project to send heavy objects into orbit, including, in 2001, the big satellites Rock and Roll, the initial broadcast towers of XM Radio. Every bit as eccentric as the efforts that How to Make a Spaceship describes, Sea Launch fired large [Russian Zenit] rockets from a ship at the equator—equatorial water is the ideal position for space access—compiling a record of 32 successes, three failures and one satellite functioning but in the wrong orbit.
In 2001, the FAA/AST confirmed that NewSpace pioneer Sea Launch was indeed "[t]he first privately financed, working launch system and infrastructure...."
Near the end of the 1990s, favored by strong public policy and spurred on by the foundational success of these post-Soviet U.S.-Russian private space ventures, there was a dramatic increase in companies engaging in this process, leading to common usage of the phrase "new space companies." "NewSpace" (most prominently), "entrepreneurial space," and "commercial space" are now the most commonly used terms, though "alt.space" was still seen occasionally as late as 2011.
2000s → Silicon Valley-style Entrepreneurial Space Initiatives
Things changed further in the early 2000s as Elon Musk formed SpaceX with significantly more private capital while he articulated a strong and consistent vision of the "colonization of space, beginning with Mars."
However, one company in a worldwide milieu of government-driven spaceflight activities simply did not cement a movement. This began to change with the increasingly public revelations and pronouncements of Blue Origin after 2014. Even though Blue was formed about the same time as SpaceX, it had maintained a very low profile in its first decade and a half of existence. By 2016, both of these two private companies, with billion-US-dollar-plus backing by committed investors, were successfully vertically landing (and in Blue's case, reusing) space launch vehicles; both companies are building large reusable orbital launch systems that will utilize currently-under-development rocket engines that are each at least four years along in development, and are already in use or under development test on ground test stands, all with a focus on radically lowering the price of carrying people and cargo to space.
Beginning on November 23, 2015, Blue Origin successfully demonstrated the repeated reuse of a rocket for the first time ever, by completing five suborbital, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) flights of the same New Shepard rocket; a feat for which Blue Origin was awarded the prestigious 2016 Robert J. Collier Trophy.
On March 30, 2017, SpaceX successfully relaunched a previously flown orbital-class rocket (Falcon 9) for the first time in history, an achievement many compare in significance to that of the Wright Brothers' first flight. Celebrated astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson described the underlying economic importance of SpaceX's otherwise technical milestone:
Any demonstration of rocket reusability is a good thing. [...] When we fly on a Boeing 747 across great distances, we don't throw it away and roll out a new one. Reusability is arguably the most fundamental feature of affordable expensive things.
Echoing deGrasse Tyson's post-flight sentiments, former NASA official (and current engineering dean at the University of Colorado, Boulder) Bobby Braun "compared the [Falcon 9] rocket to the first successful commercial airliner, the Boeing 707, which ushered in the jet age."
While NewSpace is currently a primarily horizontal market phenomenon or force which cuts across or "converges" many traditional, existing space-industry "verticals" (i.e., vertical markets)—including spacecraft, launch vehicles and services, scientific research, etc.—the ultimate promise of NewSpace is that it can become a true general purpose technology (or meta-technology), uniquely enabling the creation of new, emerging, and even once-unimaginable verticals, including:
- Energy harnessing
- Funeral Services with Space Burial. Both Elysium Space and Celestis offer mass-market services.
- Imagery for Earth and Space with companies such as Hera Systems, Skybox Imaging and Planet Labs
- Mining of asteroids and planets (notable companies include Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries.)
- Real Estate with Bigelow Aerospace
- Dedicated Nano Satellite Launcher Space Ops Australia, Independence-X Aerospace and Rocket Lab
- Scientific Research brokerage with NanoRacks
- Tourism with Space Tourism, Private Spaceflights. See the list of private spaceflight companies. Such companies include Space Adventures (live) and Virgin Galactic (in progress).
- Education with Enterprise In Space developing an online education program with NewSpace companies
- Arts and Culture with JP Aerospace's Exobiotanica project/exhibit
In the United States, NewSpace firms and activities are primarily regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (generally referred to as FAA/AST). However, given the intersection of potentially many and varied agency-interests at stake in any NewSpace venture (e.g., FAA, FCC, NOAA, DOD, NASA, FDA, DOE, DOC, etc.), and the sheer infancy of NewSpace as an industry, it appears a comprehensive and userfriendly U.S. regulatory scheme has yet to be developed and put into place to the general satisfaction of NewSpace players:
Right now there are significant gaps in the U.S. government's regulatory authority and licensing process for newly emerging commercial space ventures [i.e., NewSpace firms and projects]. Processes exist for some ventures, but not for others. [...] In many cases, it's not clear what agency, if any, a commercial firm should go through to get approval. [...] The lack of clear rules, authorities, and process is needlessly driving up risk for these firms. Worse yet, it may lead some of them to move to countries where there is greater regulatory clarity or less oversight.
Laws and Regulations
- Space Law
- Space Law 101: An Introduction to Space Law (American Bar Association)
- European Centre for Space Law (ECSL)
- NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 (S.442)
- TREAT Astronauts Act (H.R.6076)
- Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984
- Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004
- SPACE Act of 2015
- 35 U.S.C. § 105 (Inventions in Outer Space)
- Executive Order 12465
- 42 U.S.C. 2465d
- United Nations Treaties and Principles on Outer Space
- U.S.-U.S.S.R. Space Agreements (1992 and Subsequent)
- Altius Space Machines
- Andrews Space
- Astrobotic Technology
- B612 Foundation
- Bigelow Aerospace
- Blue Origin
- Celestial Circuits
- Copenhagen Suborbitals
- Deep Space Industries
- Digital Solid State Propulsion
- Exos Aerospace
- Final Frontier Design
- Galactic Suite Design
- Garvey Spacecraft
- Generation Orbit
- Golden Spike Company
- Independence-X Aerospace
- Innovative Space Propulsion Systems
- Inspiration Mars Foundation
- JP Aerospace
- Made in Space (company)
- Masten Space Systems
- Mars One
- Moon Express
- Planet Labs
- Planetary Resources
- PLD Space
- Raptor Space Services
- Rocket Lab
- Scaled Composites
- Shackleton Energy Company
- Sierra Nevada
- Skybox Imaging
- Sky and Space Global
- Spire Global
- Swiss Space Systems
- Stratolaunch Systems
- The Spaceship Company
- UP Aerospace
- Virgin Galactic
- XCOR Aerospace
- Zero Gravity Corporation
- Zero Point Frontiers Corporation
Dormant or Defunct Companies (e.g., Industry Pioneers)
- Armadillo Aerospace
- Escape Dynamics
- Firefly Space Systems
- Pioneer Rocketplane
- Rocket Racing League
- Rocketplane Kistler
- Rotary Rocket
- Sea Launch (Boeing JV)
- American Astronautical Society
- American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)
- Astronauts for Hire
- Center for the Advancement of Science in Space
- Commercial Spaceflight Federation
- (The) Mars Society
- National Space Society
- OpenLuna Foundation
- ShareSpace Foundation (Buzz Aldrin)
- Space Access Society
- Space Angels Network
- Space Foundation
- Space Frontier Foundation
- Space Settlement Institute
- Space Tourism Society
- U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC)
- FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA/AST)
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
- National Space Council
- Indian Space Research Organization (successor to the Indian National Committee for Space Research)
- European Space Agency
- China National Space Administration
- Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos)
- Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
- United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA)
- Office of Space Commerce (U.S. Dept. of Commerce)
- Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation (COE CST) (FAA)
- Space Studies Institute (founded by Dr. Gerard K. O'Neill of Princeton University)
- Space Policy Institute (The George Washington University; founded by Dr. John M. Logsdon)
- International Space University
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT Media Lab's Space Exploration Initiative)
- Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (B.S. in Commercial Space Operations)
- Purdue University (The Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering Project Buzz Aldrin-Purdue)
- University of Maryland, College Park (Space Systems Lab incl. The Neutral Buoyancy Research Facility)
- University of North Dakota (Dept. of Space Studies)
- American Military University (Online B.S. in Space Studies)
- University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (Master of Engineering in Space Operations)
- Webster University (M.S. in Space Systems Operations Management)
- Arizona State University (NewSpace Initiative)
- National Institute of Aerospace
- Students for the Exploration and Development of Space
- Space Camp
Media and Events
- Ansari X-Prize
- Beyond the Cradle: Envisioning a New Space Age conference (MIT Media Lab)
- Collier Trophy
- Canadian SmallSat Symposium (Toronto)
- Google Lunar X Prize
- International Space Development Conference (National Space Society)
- Katharine Wright Trophy
- (The) New Space Age Conference (MIT Sloan)
- NewSpace (Official Journal of the COE CST)
- NewSpace Conference (Space Frontier Foundation)
- NewSpace Global
- SmallSat Conference (Logan, UT)
- SmallSat Symposium (Menlo Park, CA)
- Space 2.0
- Yuri's Night
- Hutchinson, Lee (2014-11-30). "Firefly Space Systems charges full-speed toward low Earth orbit". ars Technica. Retrieved 2014-12-01.
- Achenbach, Joel (2013-11-23). "Which way to space? Flights of fancy may launch the industry’s future". washingtonpost.com. The Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-02-21.
To hear the dreamers tell it, this is the next Silicon Valley. The Mojave Air and Space Port is the spiritual heart of the industry that people call 'New Space.' [...] Old Space (and this is still the dreamers talking) is slow, bureaucratic, government-directed, completely top-down. Old Space is NASA, cautious and halting, supervising every project down to the last thousand-dollar widget. Old Space is Boeing, Lockheed, Northrop Grumman. Old Space coasts on the glory of the Apollo era and isn’t entirely sure what to do next. [...] New Space is the opposite of all that. It’s wild. It’s commercial, bootstrapping, imaginative, right up to the point of being (and this is no longer the dreamers talking) delusional. [...] Many of the New Space enterprises are still in the PowerPoint stage, with business models built around spaceships that haven’t yet gone to space. A bold attitude and good marketing aren’t enough to put a vehicle into orbit. The skeptics among the Old Space people will say to the upstarts: Where’s your rocket? How many times have you launched? Can you deliver reliably? Repeatedly? Safely? We put a man on the moon — what have you done? [...] Old Space and New Space turn out to be symbiotic. New Space companies need NASA contracts, and NASA needs New Space companies to pick up the agency’s slack.
- Achenbach, Joel (2017-02-21). "NASA, heeding Trump, may add astronauts to a test flight moon mission". Retrieved 2017-02-17.
Newt Gingrich, an influential adviser to Trump when it comes to space issues, is among those pushing for a more entrepreneurial space program. In an email to The Washington Post, Gingrich...blasted NASA for becoming an agency that avoids risk, and said the space program should leverage the enthusiasm and money of the many billionaires interested in commercializing space. [...] 'The key is to liberate space from government monopoly and maximize the inventive entrepreneurial spirit of the Wright brothers, Edison, Ford and other classic Americans,' Gingrich wrote. 'Done properly we can be on the moon in President Trump's first term and orbiting Mars by the end of his second term.'
- Dragicevic, Nina (2016-11-03). "Meet the Astropreneurs: 5 Companies That Hope to Conquer Mars". Retrieved 2017-04-12.
- Kiely, Melita (2015-08-04). "Ballantine’s creates whisky glass for outer space". thespiritsbusiness.com. Retrieved 2017-04-12.
- Segran, Elizabeth (2016-04-16). "The Next Frontier for Ambitious Entrepreneurs: Space". fastcompany.com. Retrieved 2017-04-12.
- "MIT Conference To Focus On Space Travel For The Public". boston.cbslocal.com. 2017-03-11. Retrieved 2017-04-12.
- David, Leonard (1993-05-24). "New Private Firm Plans to Sell Energia, Zenit to West". Space News. p. 19.
A private U.S. firm has entered into a sole distributorship agreement with a consortium of Russian scientific, industrial, and space firms to market their services, including use of the Energia and Zenit boosters. [...] The U.S. company, Commercial Space Management Co., Inc. (CSMC), was formed earlier this year.... [...] According to Nicholas Kim, CSMC's chairman and a Wall Street financier with D.H. Blair, the agreement has been struck between the management company and ENERM Inc., a joint-stock company that is a consortium of aerospace groups within the Commonwealth of Independent States [CIS], the former Soviet Union. The agreement is exclusive outside the [CIS].... [...] Included in the consortium are NPO Energia, rocket engine manufacturer NPO Energomash, the Baikonur Cosmodrome and KB Yuzhnoye, a Ukranian producer of ballistic missles. [...] 'In ENERM, we believe we have the crown jewels of the former Soviet empire...the very best space technology production and operation companies concerned,' Kim told Space News in a May 14 phone interview. [...] A main focus of the cooperative arrangement is to provide Energia, Energia-M, and Zenit launches for commercial satellite companies, Kim said. [...] The extent of Western demand for Energia-class boosters and Zenit remains to be seen. 'I would be prepared to be happily surprised,' said one Wall Street aerospace analyst. [...] According to Kim, the CSMC group plans to take advantage of Lockheed's recent push to market Russian Proton boosters. [...] 'They took the big risk of blazing the trail. Part of our strategy has been timed to their effort of opening the door,' Kim said. [...] Kim said CSMC is also postured to encourage greater use of Russian space expertise in the restructured U.S. space station program....
- Martin, Gary (2016-01-25). "NewSpace: The "Emerging" Commercial Space Industry" (PDF). nasa.gov. NASA. Retrieved 2016-09-16.
- "Bachelor of Science in Commercial Space Operations". Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Bachelor's Programs). Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Daytona Beach, Florida). Retrieved 2016-09-08.
- David Anderman. "The New Commercial Space Companies". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 13 August 2006. Retrieved 2014-02-06.
- "Office of Commercial Space Transportation". faa.gov. U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Retrieved 2016-09-09.
- Nagendra, Narayan Prasad (2017-02-28). "Traditional space and new space industry in India". ofronline.org. Retrieved 2017-03-09.
- Berger, Eric (2016-10-06). "Blue Origin just validated the new space movement". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2016-10-06.
- Pekkanan, Saadia (2016-06-28). "What Does It Take To Compete In NewSpace?". forbes.com. Retrieved 2017-03-08.
- Morring, Jr., Frank (2017-02-27). "SpaceX Says It Can Beat NASA To Moon". Retrieved 2017-02-28.
- Pura, James; et al. (2014-03-17). "Commentary | Measuring Space Choices by Our Real Purpose". spacenews.com. SpaceNews. Retrieved 2017-01-26.
- Hersher, Rebecca; et al. (2016-09-27). "Elon Musk Unveils His Plan For Colonizing Mars". npr.org. NPR. Retrieved 2017-01-26.
- Sheraz, Sadiq (2013-11-18). "Silicon Valley Goes to Space". kqed.org. Retrieved 2017-02-28.
- Starr, Randy; et al. (2017-03-02). "Filling the vacuum: The threat of new space". pwc.com. Retrieved 2017-03-10.
- Bersin, Josh (2015-03-13). "Culture: Why It's The Hottest Topic In Business Today". forbes.com. Retrieved 2017-04-13.
- Neufeld, Michael (2008). Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War. Vintage. ISBN 9780307389374.
- "Biography of Wernher Von Braun". history.msfc.nasa.gov. NASA MSFC History Office. Retrieved 2017-01-11.
- Dixon, Jeff (2014-08-09). "Walt Disney Reaching For The Stars… And Beyond !". The Keys to the Kingdom. Jeff Dixon. Retrieved 2016-12-20.
- Roberson, Bill (2016-10-10). "As billionaires ogle Mars, the space race is back on". digitaltrends.com. Designtechnica Corporation. Retrieved 2016-12-20.
- Swartz, Jon (2017-03-14). "Buzz Aldrin really, really wants humans to go to Mars". usatoday.com. Retrieved 2017-03-15.
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- Dunbar, Brian (2016-08-01). "NASA and Star Trek Overview". nasa.gov. NASA. Retrieved 2017-01-27.
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- Kharpal, Arjun (2017-03-20). "Like Elon Musk, this entrepreneur is betting on Mars but his business model is more like Disney than SpaceX". cnbc.com. Retrieved 2017-03-30.
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- Northon, Karen (2017-02-27). "NASA Statement About SpaceX Private Moon Venture Announcement". Retrieved 2017-02-28.
- Pasztor, Andy (2016-12-21). "Thiel Pushes to Add Commercial-Space Backers to Trump NASA Team". wsj.com. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2016-12-21.
- Pasztor, Andy (2017-02-15). "Commercial-Space Advocates Urge Looser Regulations". wsj.com. Retrieved 2017-02-15.
- Achenbach, Joel (2017-01-19). "Will Trump echo JFK’s moonshot and vow to send humans to Mars?". washingtonpost.com. The Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-02-21.
For starters, Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX and Tesla, has made two trips to Trump Tower. He met at least once with Trump and, we’re reliably told, discussed Mars and public-private partnerships. [...] As we have reported many times, Musk and his people at SpaceX have the bold dream of colonizing Mars, and think they can launch the first human mission to the surface of the Red Planet as soon as 2024 — when Trump, if reelected, would still be in the White House. [...] Trump understands the power of a big idea, and the leverage that can come from a cult of personality. He has been interested in John F. Kennedy’s vow to send humans to the moon. He discussed that early this month at Trump Tower with historian Douglas Brinkley. [...] 'He reflected on how the Apollo program brought the country together,' Brinkley told The Washington Post this week in a phone interview. 'It captures the spirit of the American people. That’s the word he used — ‘spirit’.' [...] The United States is still the only country to put a human on the moon, and the only country to land a fully operational spacecraft on Mars. 'That’s American exceptionalism,' Brinkley said.
- "Transcript: President Donald Trump’s 2017 Inaugural Address". bloomberg.com. Bloomberg L.P. 2017-01-20. Retrieved 2017-01-24.
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- Cofield, Calla (2017-03-21). "President Trump Signs NASA Authorization Bill". space.com. Retrieved 2017-03-22.
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- Grush, Loren (2017-03-21). "Trump hypes the private space industry while signing NASA bill". theverge.com. Retrieved 2017-03-22.
- Hawkes, Steve (2017-02-09). "READY FOR TAKE OFF Commercial space flights could take off from Brexit Britain in just THREE YEARS as Ministers vow to win space race". sun.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-02-10.
- Sheetz, Michael (2017-02-17). "For these private space companies, the future is now, and the final frontier is in reach". cnbc.com. Retrieved 2017-02-21.
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- Davenport, Christian (2016-08-19). "The inside story of how billionaires are racing to take you to outer space". washingtonpost.com. The Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-11-18.
- Guthrie, Julian (2016). How to Make a Spaceship: A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race, and the Birth of Private Spaceflight. Penguin Press. ISBN 1594206724.
- Doughton, Sandi (2012-04-24). "Billionaires bankroll new space company for asteroid mining". seattletimes.com. The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2017-02-21.
Space exploration needs a kick in the pants, and it will get one...when a group of high-tech billionaires announces plans to mine asteroids.... And there’s money to be made, too, adds John S. Lewis, a retired University of Arizona professor of space science who now lives in Anacortes. [...] 'We’re talking resources with market values in the trillions,” said Lewis, author of 'Mining the Sky.' 'It’s not at all surprising that it’s billionaires who are stepping up to the plate. They think big and they know a big investment is required to make money.' [...] Former Microsoft executive Charles Simonyi, one of several investors, will also be there. [...] Money men who won’t make an appearance include “Titanic” and “Avatar” filmmaker James Cameron, Google CEO Larry Page and Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, and Ross Perot Jr., son of the former presidential candidate. [...] Many space veterans are skeptical, and even Lewis admits to significant hurdles, such as finding customers for materials mined in space. [...] 'It’s the stuff of science fiction,' former astronaut Thomas Jones told The Associated Press. 'But like in so many other areas of science fiction, it’s possible to begin the process of making them reality.' [...] Unlike NASA, which makes enormously expensive, one-of-a-kind space vessels, space mining will require mass-produced technology, like probes, and cheaper launch services, Lewis said. [...] Launch costs are already being driven down as private entrepreneurs, like PayPal founder Elon Musk and his rocket company SpaceX, enter the market. Blue Origins, founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, designs and builds rockets in a factory in Kent.
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[Alexandra] Wolfe...loosely stakes her story on three fellows, though the narrative isn’t entirely theirs. [...] She veers along a number of off-roads like a driverless car programmed by one of the Valley’s underslept child-engineers. We visit coder communes; get a glimpse into weird eating customs, transgressive yoga regimens, and dress preferences...; absorb the influence of power players...; and learn the culture’s leitmotifs—developing outer space....
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After the Soviet Union launched its Sputnik satellite in 1957, American scientists were under the gun to top that stunning feat. Harold Rosen, an electrical engineer at Hughes Aircraft Co., proposed small, spinning satellites that could relay telephone calls and TV signals around the world.
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Lockheed-Russian Venture Gets First Customer: Lockheed-Khrunichev-Energia International [was] formed this year to provide space-launch services using Russian-built Proton rockets.... [...] The venture between Lockheed and Khrunichev, one of Russia's leading aerospace operations, is among the most significant linkups between U.S. and Russian defense firms.
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The end of the Cold War has opened up unprecedented opportunities for the U.S. to benefit from the vast resources of the former Soviet space program. Unfortunately, due to a lack of clear and consistent policies, the U.S. space community and NASA in particular has been slow to exploit these opportunities. In this paper an improved strategy for NASA's pursuit of Russian cooperation is developed that specifies the recommended areas in which to cooperate and the suggested means for implementation. [...] The strategy was developed using lessons learned from past and on-going joint aerospace projects with Russian as well as other international partners. [...] The analysis identifies newly emerging objectives for international space ventures in support of foreign policy and industrial competitiveness goals. NASA's present approach to cooperating with Russia is built upon short-term government-led projects that neglect these broader objectives. Recommendations for making space policy structures at NASA and at the national level more responsive to U.S. long-term strategic interests are presented to overcome this shortcoming. To effectively meet the needs of U.S. and Russian partners alike, it is recommended that NASA make greater use of private companies with their efficient commercial practices as the interface to Russian industrial enterprises.
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Since the term came into vogue about five years ago, supplanting the geekier “alt.space” moniker, it’s been most commonly associated with entrepreneurial ventures developing suborbital and orbital vehicles. ... While an exact, widely-accepted definition of NewSpace still eludes the space community, it’s increasingly clear that constraining the scope of NewSpace to vehicle developers is too limiting. ... SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, XCOR Aerospace, ... New companies are emerging that seek to develop technologies that can either enable or be enabled by low-cost access to space and thus can arguably be considered part of NewSpace. [Examples include] Altius Space Machines ... Masten Space Systems ... Innovative Space Propulsion Systems ... Celestial Circuits [and] Final Frontier Design. ... NewSpace ... is a way of doing business and NewSpace is an industry doing business in a new way. ... NewSpace is an industry that’s doing business for a purpose ... a NewSpace company is a company that is built, formed, operated by, funded by, or has as part of its business plan the opening of the space frontier, and making a profit while doing so ... It is the industrial engine that will power the movement towards a more fundamental goal of space settlement.
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- "NewSpace 2017: Convergence". Retrieved 2017-03-10.
NewSpace converges every vertical of the space industry together with transformational new partners across sectors. [...] [This] cross-disciplinary collaboration [is] critical to creating a sustainable space economy, which in turn fuels innovation in areas from healthcare to construction.
- Levine, Alaina G. (2016-07-11). "Looking to space as an asteroid miner". Science. AAAS. Retrieved 2016-07-13.
NewSpace, whereby aerospace companies work to develop space tourism services or underlying technologies at low cost. Asteroid resource mining is an important aspect of this effort.
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