depend solely on flight mission initiatives. By ensuring knowledge capture, NASA will not have to relearn lessons from the past. Struggles with Avcoat are a good example of loss of knowledge, experience, and lessons learned. Such an approach is similar to that employed with great success by NACA.

Finding. Program Stability. Repeated, unexpected changes in the direction, content, and/or level of effort of technology development programs have diminished their productivity and effectiveness. In the absence of a sustained commitment to address this issue, the pursuit of OCT’s mission to advance key technologies at a steady pace will be threatened.

COMMERCIAL SPACE

The draft roadmaps could be improved by explicitly addressing the needs of the commercial space sector. The National Space Policy affirms the importance of commercial space activities, stating that “a robust and competitive commercial space sector is vital to continued progress in space. The United States is committed to encouraging and facilitating the growth of a U.S. commercial space sector”2 (White House, 2010, p. 3). Further, The National Aeronautics and Space Act declares that “the general welfare of the United States requires that the Administration seek and encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space.” In addition, NASA is directed to “encourage and provide for federal government use of commercially provided space services and hardware, consistent with the requirements of the federal government” (P.L. 111-314, sec. 20102). NASA’s contribution to accomplishing these important objectives would be enhanced by a technology development program that:

•   Identifies how the commercial space sector could benefit from advanced technology.

•   Makes appropriate efforts to develop pre-competitive technology relevant to the needs of the commercial space sector, in much the same way that NASA supports pre-competitive technology development in support of the aeronautics industry.

•   Transfers advanced technologies to U.S. industry to help satisfy the needs of the commercial space sector as well as NASA’s own mission needs.

Meeting these objectives requires a proactive and sustained partnership between NASA and industry that goes beyond treating the private sector as a contractor, which is typically the case when NASA funds industry to achieve NASA goals.

The U.S. aerospace industry has developed and matured as a result of the government’s civil and military missions in space. It seems ready to exploit emerging commercial opportunities (beyond traditional services such as commercial communications and imagery), often by selling commercial space products and services where earlier the government would have purchased the space system itself. Promising non-governmental commercial opportunities include orbital human habitats and satellite servicing. Current U.S. space policies are intended to take advantage of the strengths of the United States with its free-market, entrepreneurial business culture. The transition to a more robust commercial space industry would be facilitated if NASA made new and existing research and development data more accessible to U.S. industry (especially industry that is working on its own commercial goals apart from NASA missions). The active collaboration of NASA with industry on precompetitive technologies of interest to industry would also be helpful. It is not up to NASA to predict or select viable commercial endeavors. Industry will initiate relationships with NASA in the technology development areas of interest to them, informed by improved access to archived and ongoing technology program data mentioned, and be prepared to finance their own participation. Such relationships would be confined to pre-competitive technologies.

image

2As used in the National Space Policy, the term commercial refers to “space goods, services, or activities provided by private sector enterprises that bear a reasonable portion of the investment risk and responsibility for the activity, operate in accordance with typical market-based incentives for controlling cost and optimizing return on investment, and have the legal capacity to offer these goods or services to existing or potential nongovernmental customers” (White House, 2010, p. 10)



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement