Space Tourism and Commercialization


Houston we have a podcast welcome to the official podcast of the NASA Johnson Space Center episode one. Oh three space tourism and commercialization. I'm Gary Joining W host today day on this podcast we bring in the experts neces- scientists engineers astronauts to let you know the coolest information about what's going on right here. NASA so on June seventh twenty nine thousand nine NASA announced a new directive that further opens up the International Space Station for commercial use this means a really brand new way that businesses done in space and it widens the possibilities commercial companies to explore different markets to manufacture goods to test thrown habitable structures to conduct marketing and sponsorship activities and to send more people to who space through space tourism and private astronauts. This announcement was a big deal for us because it's a significant shift from how we normally do things but why do this at all we'll. Nasr's going full full speed ahead to make a landing of the first woman and the next man on the moon a possibility and developing a robust economy and low-earth orbit or basically creating a space in space for companies needs to succeed is a good way to make that happen developing this economy with many companies means. NASA can focus its resources on moon exploration will still need low-earth orbit but with this model we can purchase services from companies in low-earth orbit and a much lower cost than doing everything ourselves because the ultimate goal would be to be one of many customers a self off sustaining economy. The idea here is not to make money a reduced cost just to enable this to happen but really this is all just skimming the surface. This announcement was densely packed with tons of of details and nuances so today we'll be talking more in depth about these efforts on the International Space Station with our guest Mike Reid. He's the Commercial Space Utilization Manager for the International Space Space Station Program here in Houston. Mike is Great at explaining all of this in a way that makes sense so I was excited to bring him on so here's everything about space tourism commercialization and marketing with Mr. Mike Reid enjoy and county. We have how Mike <hes>. Thank you for coming on the podcast today. We'll thanks for inviting me to do this. I know you've been waiting a long time for this to happen and I know just back and forth from the time that we've been working together. This is this idea of commercialization has is not new we've been we've been working on it for a while right. <hes> actually we've been working on it longer than I even thought wow so this this goes all the way back into the days of shuttle where we launched <hes> commercial communications satellites we flew payload special from Hughes Gregory Jarvis who passed away on fifty one hour <hes> was a commercial astronaut may be the first commercial astronaut and in in <hes> in the ninety S.. We flew space missions on shuttle. I think we flew about a dozen at least of those <hes> through the Mir program as well shuttle. Mir and we've been doing commercial research in space for all of that time and through the two thousand two to date. We've had a number of commercial companies. Especially since we started ended the National Lab Beckon Twenty twenty eleven started operating it for commercial purposes and I think that's important to know this is this is something that's existed for a long time the idea of commercialization socialization. I think some of the some of the things we've been announcing recently are a little bit noon. We can go into those later but <hes> give us kind of more of that historical perspective active. What is what is the traditional model of how we've been working with these commercial companies like he sang over the past couple of decades well so the traditional model of research is government funded Carolina Mr Academia through <hes> <hes> through other government agencies for we we issue grand announcements and we select period science and we go. I'll do it. <hes> the commercial aspect of it is is <hes> is different in that. It's more towards improving products or developing products. <hes> perhaps <hes> proctor and gamble has been doing research on college which are the <hes> micro elements inside of a fluid <hes> to keep things from separating keeps your your here <hes> ketchup from Heaven Water and Tomato on the shelf right for instance but they've been doing college for probably about fifteen years with us. <hes> Merck is now doing China <hes> protein crystal growth. We've got <hes> pharmaceutical companies. June rodent research <hes> so it's really it's really grown where they're covering their cost. Whereas as before it was grant funded <hes> we still help them with the implementation partner cost because it's expensive to adapt <hes> a research investigation from terrestrial to space and so we we help with that helped him to prove that there's goodness and doing research in space and that that's a totally different model and traditional grant funded model yeah and a lot out of this is a lot of this through the <hes> Isis national lab it is okay so where does where does that come in the difference. I guess for those who don't may not understand the DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ISIS national lab and research like you're talking about and some of the stuff that necessary so massive we go by what we call the Decatur Service and so that that <hes> it's it's done as it suggested about every ten years and it influences the kind of research that that <hes> <hes> the community believes we ought to be tackling and funding so we have our own fundamental and applied research interest and that's that's half of all of the research that we do the other half falls under the national lab which is other government the agency's doing things similar to NASA driven by different goals <hes> it's academia and in its most importantly the commercial sector so companies that want to do research to help their product-development would come in through the national lab and that's the other half of all the research yeah. It's it's the idea that the International Space Station is a laboratory in in and of itself but the difference is that you take microgravity out of the equation and there's a lot of things that you can figure out by by doing so yeah. Sometimes it <hes> it speeds things up. Sometimes it slows things down down so the the colloidal separation gravity is much quicker. It's it's minutes <hes> because of the gravitational pull but in space it's days and so when you slow slowdown that that <hes> sedimentation you can really see the interactions between the different <hes> <hes> elements that are within those fluids. Francis <hes> <hes> flames are totally different. There's there's convection so he doesn't rise in space and so a flame is much more uniform and it's <hes> it's it's much different studying things like that. In space with without the gravitational and a lot of this <hes> like you're saying is is for researching is for figuring out what exactly is happening thing then later down the road. The idea is to commercialize something that you have figured out through that research the on the commercial side it would be I mean their goals are going to be whatever ever their business model says they should be right and so if they can if they can find a way to build a product <hes> that <hes> doesn't separate meaning doesn't look <hes> <hes> done look as attractive to a potential purchaser on on a store shelf well that's to their benefit or if they can figure out elements of muscle wasting or you know <unk> <hes> bone deterioration that can lead to <hes> treatment for that then that would be in pharmaceutical companies interest but doing things in space just allows allows. You take a little bit different approach than the long traditional ten year twelve year drug development program on the ground. Yeah I know definitely drug. Development is one of those was areas. That's particularly interesting for microgravity but the going back to this this idea that commercial activity in space is not new in fact. It's it's something that we've actually invested in and it's become regular. As part of operations. I know particularly is commercial cargo transportation. Now you know what we used to be. The space shuttle taking up <hes> cargo to the International Space Station. Now we have SPACEX Dragon. Now we have north of grauman's Cygnus. We have commercial vehicles close as part of that was was it partly the success of that program that kind of sparked this idea <hes> maybe commercialization in space can actually can actually be something. Something we should look into. I think that definitely is where we're at now. <hes> what we did with the Commercial Cargo Program we first released an announcement in two thousand six for that. I think the first just actual cargo delivery was in two thousand twelve about half a dozen years later commercial crew was announced in two thousand nine it fed off how we what we learned in how we did commercial cargo <hes> but I think all of those were in those were set in a different time when we knew shuttles only gonna fly so long at the time we didn't know when the last shuttle flight was going to be but we also knew that doing this traditional government <hes> program way was probably not GonNa be affordable in the long term so those are the first big big steps was getting NASA way from paying for the Vehicle Launch Vehicle Operating Vehicle <hes> it's a totally different model because our our commercial social partners now do that and we'll assume that crew yeah that's right and that's the commercial crew or talk and SPACEX and Boeing developing crew capabilities and that's obviously you know NASA is a big big part of that because we want a ride to the International Space Station but that idea of a commercial company like you're saying owning and operating their own vehicle now it opens it up for more opportunities opportunities beyond just providing that service for NASA well in the next step of courses is a commercial destination. I mean that's that's what we really want to see. I mean we're we're always going to have a need to be in lower orbit and the space station for certain is going to be the U._S.. Government driven platform and low-earth-orbit. It's just it's it's not affordable to to sustain a government program. When you want to go do a deep space or moon mission yeah it's definitely an important thing and and I definitely want to get into the nitty gritty of especially especially the recent <hes> commercial and marketing policies that have come out <hes> but you know going back to the general idea <hes> this is something that's important right? Why why is it important to allow business opportunities in low-earth-orbit? Oh it's self serving. It's totally self serving for us as an agency because we are always going to need a Leo Platform low-earth-orbit Platform Platform. We're going to need to do our fundamental and applied research. We're going to need to do crew training and proficiency because we're not going to send a crew to the moon on their very first mission. That's just not going to happen and we're we're always going to need to test new systems because systems influenced the operate differently in microgravity than they do in one G and we we've learned so much about what we didn't know <hes> by running systems over long periods of time on space station so it's a it's a commercial and business testbed S. bed but it's also critical to us in our in our exploration needs so given I assess will be the last government driven program and given we're always going to need to have a place Jason. Leo If there isn't other demand for this we're stuck holding the bag for the entire operating cost of whatever the next destination looks like and that's not tenable either so we are doing this in our own best interests to help companies leveraging assets of the space station to help them see if there's a business model in space whether it be for tourism for marketing <hes> for for <hes> cell line development personalized medicine <hes> pick it in space manufacturing. We don't know Oh but we're we want to enable them to try out those ideas and see if there's if there's goodness and doing things and microgravity if there is then those kind of things are scalable. They'll they'll need a good bit of the next destination in space and that way we become one of many customers rather than the only customer yeah which is critical to our ability to continue to afford to do expiration version yeah which is at the at the very core of the reason why this policy change is more of that enabling part the idea is to is to at least make available the opportunity four an economy to grow and become some something robust so that we can get to that point like you're saying one of many customers so policy was was was a big big change in direction for us. It's been as you mentioned at the outset. It's been a lot of years coming <hes> and frankly it's taken <hes> administration the the hill. It's taken a lot of people to to nudge us in that direction telling us. It's okay this is this is what we want to see you do <hes> and so the policy was was developed over <hes> <hes> over a number of years but it all came together in the last year so it it's it's really different for us. You know the Russians have done spaceflight participants a number of are those <hes> back in two thousand one when they were doing those it was difficult for us because it was an interruption in our mission and it was it was interruption day-to-day ops ops on station and and frankly we weren't enamored of it at all to say the least <hes> but we did a bunch of commercials studies less for and one of other things that they they all pointed out virtually all pointed out was that you know allowing private astronauts tourists to professional astronauts from other countries <hes> to access space station was a big portion of revenue that could close business model yeah so and that was part of those studies. He's that and you kind of listed off a couple of already. You talked about <hes> in-space manufacturing. You talked about drug development. These are some of the areas where we said as NASA NASA. Hey commercial sector. Hey Hey private sector. If you were to make money in space where would be your opportunities and I guess yes space tourism spaceflight swipe participants is is <hes> is a big place for a commercial sector to thrive and we came. We came full circle on us. When you know we not only does it help stimulate like demand for a platform but it also drives demand for the access to space transportation which the more yoursel of anything economies of scale? We'll tell you the cheaper it's going to get which benefits us as as well so that was <hes> that was a very important aspect of of deciding to allow these standalone private astronaut missions to exhibition yeah yeah and that's part of the economy is in upfront. It's going to be it's. It's going to be a little bit more difficult but eventually really the idea is the more frequent it becomes the in the more regular it becomes <hes> the cheaper it'll get which is huge for us and I think you so you mentioned cost already cost. I think is probably one of the one of the greater barriers to entry for a company to start becoming <hes> <hes> I guess commercial official air profitable in space right well access to space is the long pole in the tent yet <hes> the cost the cost of doing business in space the biggest the biggest cost is is access exists so <hes> one of the things we we rolled out on our commercials strategic plan <hes> couple of weeks ago was <hes> a solicitation looking for ways to drive down that that very thing the the cost of getting space so we'll see what what <hes> the private sector has you know as a mind for how we could tackle it how we as a government agency doing things that are inherently governmental that we can bring a special project together <hes> to to maybe drive down <hes> whatever whatever the technologies are that makes us so difficult. Maybe it's supply hi chain management we we we don't know maybe it's <hes> financial incentives to do business in space that don't exist right now so we have multiple government agencies working with US F._A._A.. <hes> commerce I and others are all they're all on board and wanting to wanting to help enable us because they recognize. It's not just a nice thing. It's a U._S.. Thing yeah yeah very much so oh so let's go into the nitty gritty. Let's talk about what <hes> was talking about. What has been announced <hes> most recently? I think <hes> one of the top things is is just the policy itself on on commercial activities what can what can and cannot be done of regarding commercial activities and the time allocation that we're dedicating advocating to doing that so what's what's happening there so we've we've never allowed marketing on the I._S._S.. <hes> it <hes> other other countries have done it. The Japanese have done at the Russians have done at Isa has done at European Space Agency. We've we've never participated in that and and <hes> there there's been reasons for ward because we had a <hes> a research mission Ryan. We had a systems development mission but we also recognize that it <hes> it's important us to enable it because there might be additional demand for space as I said earlier Things that are being done up there already. Let's say let's say procter and gamble. They've been doing college research on space station for years if they wanted to do a marketing campaign using using some of our cameras on on space station and showing their hardware talking about it our crew can't be in that we we don't we can't interesting be seen to endorse things but we can be operating camera and we can downlink the data to them and that's not a problem but because it's tied to something that they're doing on space station and <hes> when private astronauts are up there they'll be able to go one step further which is do things such as marketing of products that don't have anything to do with things going on on space space station so if if McDonald's wanted to do <hes> an advertisement filmed in space those private astronauts could do that Arthur's cannot but they could and so so that's that's a huge shift at that. We're we've come out and said now not only are we not gonNA fight this but we're actually going to announce that. We're going to enable it which I think is that's pretty cool. Enable it and dedicate time to it. I think that's a big that's a big part of this. Whole thing is <hes> you said you know why? Why couldn't we do some of these activities before is because we had a research mission and if you want it to do something else besides that research that's time that's time that's you're taking away from research? <hes> now we're actually using a using a part of NASA's time to actually do that to pick to have an astronaut pick up a camera and film something or to do something like that we we have. We still have a research mission and we always will sure <hes> we crew time has been and likely we'll be again one of our our limiting resources <hes> but we felt it was equally important. Help stimulate <hes> a nascent demand for Leo that we'd never tried before so we've we've set aside about ninety hours a year <hes> for for these commercial marketing activities <hes> and and we've set aside some some kilograms of of up to to support whatever never there needs might be as well as small <hes>. It's about five percent of what we have available to us so it it doesn't impact our research. The crews do a marvelous job of getting more time than what what we actually schedule for them. They work. They Work Saturdays quite often. I work long days so it really it will not impact our research mission but it's it's equally important to see if this can develop so at least we're you know we're we're dedicating that time and I think that's that's the majority of the commercial and marketing activities Jesus saying that this is something that we're going to allow and it's a big. It's a big <hes> <hes> I guess caveat what you said between what An- NASA astronaut can do <hes> it it has to be related to space <hes> and it you can't have the astronaut in front of the camera personally endorsing anything a little bit more freedom when it comes to private astronauts which like you said dead space tourism spaceflight participants. This is a big <hes>. This is a big commercial opportunity so what's what's happening there in the world of private private astronaut. How's it all going work with <hes> the I guess the difference between that's there's a big question? I know that that we're getting in our office. Is You know how does this work. What do you have to do to become a private astronaut? If the train yeah our which companies do you go for what what are you right on. You know how this all work and the beautiful part about it is. It's all business a business yeah we we have to enable them on our side. There's a lot of things that we have have to do but we've pointed them to the two crew providers grew vehicle providers that we've already or will have already fled certified once they fly as Boeing and spacex if another one develops and we certify it and well okay. We got three of them now but they have to go to a U._S.. Provider <hes> we'll get away from <hes> our citizens paying variety on a Russian Soyuz vehicle which doesn't do our economy and he good <hes> we we we will have to work them into the flight plan <hes> so it's probably an for training purposes. Just tireless depends on what they WANNA do if they're if they're <hes> <hes> a country that doesn't have a presence on the I._S._S.. Now that wants to space program the they could have selected one of their <unk> astronauts it becomes what we would call sovereign astronaut they could train professionally just like our crew does to be able to do research and and other things on board they wouldn't need to know how to operating systems because that's what are what are crew and the Russians accrue in our partner crew but <hes> that that could be easily a two year program to to train <hes> and it's probably that long for us to get it in and planned in in flight sequence anyway <hes> to accommodate them. We think we can accommodate. Maybe two of these a year less less than thirty days any longer than that you start getting into some medical <hes> requirements and and exercise requirements and things that are going to be hard for us to accommodate because our crews have subscribed subscribed that but if you wanna go up spaceflight participant what we call space tourists <hes> it could be a lot less time now we teach you how to use the com- system <hes> <hes> the <hes> the Internet satellite phone if you're gonNA use that <hes> how to use the Galley in waste and hygiene compartment and what not to touch your here here in here right <hes> so that's a lot less time than what it would be if you're going to go up there and you're going to operate as one of our crew would operate yeah the I mean. The idea is no matter what there's GonNa be some training involved at the very bare minimum. You have to know how to work stuff and then in event of an emergency you have to know how to properly get out exactly in your training using our emergency equipment. It'd be another thing that they would do. Maybe a bit of the medical but but it'd be minimal but the idea is the now we're we're at least the opening up the International Space Station allowing the commercial marketing activities <hes> enabling the space tourism and and private private astronauts more professional astronaut depending on the training <hes> but this this whole idea of destinations and I think this is a very exciting one <hes> like you said you know the International Space Station station is not going to be there forever. Let's develop this list this space this Leo Lower Orbit <hes> where there can be commercial destinations <hes> flying and the the idea is we are enabling the ability to test those things so what's the what's the destination. I think that's a that's something that we kinda throw out there but it might not be kind of something that people really grasp grasp onto a destination could be a commercial module Camacho element on space station. <hes> which I'll come back to in a minute it could also be a free flying in platform it might be in proximity to the space station so that it could take advantage of the cargo vehicles that are already going to space station. Maybe maybe they visit space station in a visit to the Free Flyer Commercial Commercial Free Flyer and then and then you know come back and return or <hes> <hes> I it could could look like several of those I mean we're going to always have a need for space and so we want that platform whether it's tested on I._S._S. separates or whether it goes direct to free flee flyer easy for me to say whether it goes director Freeh Flyer doesn't really matter as long as it is capable of functioning providing getting the research combinations that we need that that's the long term goal <hes> part of that part of the strategic plan roll out to the other week was to enable both of Ah Flanks and no solicitation should be hitting the street <hes> this week <hes> to to announce that we're we're soliciting <hes> proposals tools to put a commercial module on the note to forward port of the I._S._S. to extend that <hes> it would operate as an element of I._S._S. S._S.. But it would have <hes> different <hes> rules of the road if you will on things that they can do inside especially with with private crew <hes> such as those pure marketing marketing activities that we were talking about share <hes> at that's probably going to be the easiest thing to enable because it doesn't really require any other equipment other than whatever props they're going to use in in in the spot right our <hes> we don't know exactly what that destination with a commercial module could look like so. Let us know what you think would be a commercially viable thing. That's the the what we're kind of requesting. That's pretty much the case. We'll we've part of the part of the roll out the other week. Was We quantified what our long-term needs were going to be in in low-earth orbit and companies can look at that say okay. What would have those things does it make sense for me to try to provide so that I can get the government is a customer because they are the studies we did? They not all of them but most of them need to government as a primary customer in some way shape or form the ones that have have business models that look like they can work have us as maybe maybe a large customer but not majority customer <hes> other ones that need us as eighty eighty nine percent customer is probably not <hes> probably not very attractive to us <hes> same reason that you don't want to be the only big box store to mall and have everything be empty because you're GonNa pay the whole cost of operating them all. We don't want to do that and that's that's just not. That's that's not a good recipe for a robust bust economy and Laura Tober so who can participate in this. I know this is another big question that we've been we've been getting a lot is <hes> i. I believe it's a U._S.. Company endeavor so it's so when we're talking about all these different commercial companies that can do this that and the other thing it this is this is a U._s.. Company thing absolutely Lee is I mean the American taxpayers have put billions of dollars into developing and operating and doing research on space station <hes> the creation of the national lab which to start it providing some <hes> returned to the U._S. economy in the form of commercial research on space station that was important <hes> but for the long haul we're going to enable the using the resources that we have rights too. We NASA have rights to on station. We're going to enable a broader participation by the U._S.. Economy U._S. commercial sector <hes> in developing these elements in in doing <hes> scaled scalable research on I._S._S. and and in developing the free flying platforms yeah yeah but that's not to say that you know the customers don't necessarily have to be U._S.. It's it's the it's the businesses themselves so like you're saying for the example of private astronauts. If a company offer a different country wants to have their a representative of their country has the first astronaut from whatever country it may be they will just have to go through. Are These U._S.. Companies to make that happen absolutely true. We've got commercial companies that own an operator own hardware space station right now to bring in <hes> users researchers from all around the world <hes> maraks located right right here in Houston <hes> they did a they've done investigations for I don't I don't know how many countries but they they had a Beijing Institute of Technology Investigation last year <hes> Vietnam <hes> schools in Vietnam have done research on their. They've deployed cubesats for other countries so it's happening right now. It's just we're scaling it up in in in size yeah so let let's look a little bit towards the <hes> towards the future because I think that'll kind of lay out what the ultimate goal is. <hes> you know we talk about developing this row robust economy and low-earth orbit. Let's just say eight. Let's just say timeline x and at let's go to the very end of that the art we have completed all of our mission. What does low earth orbit look like in this scenario in Ah best-case? There's multiple destinations operated commercially that each can satisfy some of nashes needs for systems development crew training training and research <hes> two or more. Let's put it that way. It's <hes> it's going to be an expensive environment to sustain a business model in but if it's a it's a multifaceted business miles probably got the most likely hood of success and <hes> for for sustainability so that's the idea is this is the destinations are commercially operated. NASA is doesn't have a thing in space but we are purchasing services that already exists or purchasing purchasing transportation were purchasing capabilities on board the destination and the idea I think is because we're focusing a little bit farther out. That's exactly right. We we want to go back to the moon. You've been given a charge to do there by twenty twenty four which is going to be very aggressive but <hes> it's going to be very exciting. <hes> we have got to be able to utilize space waystation so companies can learn to do business and then they can sell business sell services to us. That's the that's the end goal we have to be able to do that. When BEC in the eighteen seventies we built a transcontinental railroad government had a need for something but didn't have the funds to do so private companies consortium built F East West west-east and they met in the middle we we backed it with bonds promises to pay right and we gave away resources? We gave away land for every mile track. We're doing the same thing thing was was space station and low-earth-orbit. We have a need to see destinations appear in space for as I said for our own self interest and long-term needs and we're giving giving away resources or giving away the up mass and the crew time and the power and data and on over at volume and all of that because it makes sense to do it yeah the transcontinental railroad of low-earth orbit <hes> I think one of the one of the other I think good benefits of doing this especially in low-earth-orbit Earth orbit especially with the International Space Station is it. I think it's a good representation is a good model for what we can do again. On the Moon <hes> International Space Station Ocean. We've been working with international partners. Were working with commercial companies. It's not new we're we're doing. We're getting pretty good at it. I think so I think using lower orbit as a a test which has been the the purpose of low-earth-orbit really is to test different capabilities and systems <hes> you can take a lot of those same concepts and apply that to the moon the administrator has already talked about working with commercial companies to actually make this moon landing and a artem is program a success. It's it's it's something that's what's needed yeah well. The administrator has multiple degrees in business and finance so it's not <hes> it's not a surprise that he's on board with this commercialization <hes> else this commercialization effort will mike. I think that's a very good <hes> Snapshot Really <hes> and just indepth description of all of this low-earth low-earth orbit commercialization efforts. It's very exciting time and you need unique model for the way that we're actually doing human space exploration so I really appreciate your time. You Bet it'd be interesting to see how this all plays out going forward <music> unlike hey thanks for sticking around. I hope you really enjoyed this discussion. Washing with Mike Reid he did a great job. I think of explaining everything about that went into not just this announcement but a little bit of the history of all the commercial activity that's been happening in space over these past couple of decades dates but if you really want to know more about this announcement specifically and everything that has to do with it there is a lot of information and we made it all available online. It's on NASA DOT Gov of slash. Leo Leo Dash Economy. If you go to that site you can really dig into <hes> all the different elements of what's gone on <hes> ah I guess because of this announcement and then all the opportunities that are available for you to do on board the International Space Station otherwise if you curious on what is the International Space Station I I hope you check out some of our other podcasts that really go into depth there but otherwise you can just go to NASA dot Gov Slash

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