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The steps to achieving a NASA partnership.

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Commercial Crew & Cargo Program

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Flight Opportunities

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Flight Opportunities Program

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Commercial Space Committee

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NASA Advisory Council (NAC)

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What is Commercial Space?

    The recently released National Space Policy provides a useful guideline in understanding the renewed commitment to Commercial Space:

    "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 that supports U.S. needs, is globally competitive, and advances U.S. leadership in the generation of new markets and innovation-driven entrepreneurship."

    The goals underlying this new policy are to energize competitive domestic industries to participate in global markets and advance the development of satellite manufacturing, satellite-based services, space launch, terrestrial applications and increased entrepreneurship.

    Defining Commercial Space

    The diagram below can be used as a context for understanding what makes something a 'Commercial Space' activity.
    graph showing business practices and customers moving towards commercial space.
    There are three key themes that underscore some of the changes already underway in how NASA is engaging the Commercial Space sector:
    • Private sector role as partner rather than contractor
    • Government purchase of services instead of hardware
    • Creating broader opportunities for innovation
    All these themes are consistent with the relationship that NASA had with the emerging aviation industry back in the days of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). Here, the NACA approach focused on building an industry, not a program:

    “… the members of the NACA believed to a man that the future of aviation in the United States depended on a healthy and prosperous aircraft manufacturing industry, and that it was the NACA’s duty to help where it could. From the outset, the NACA was an industry booster limited only by its need to be fair and impartial in disbursing favors and assistance.” – Alex Roland, “Model Research”, NASA History SP-4103, page 34

    For NASA today, this implies seeking the Wright Brothers of 21st Century through open innovation and focusing on the foundational research and technology required to foster commercial markets.

    NASA's role in fostering the Emerging Commercial Space sector is shared with the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation and the Office of Space Commercialization of the Department of Commerce.

    At the first Commercial Space workshop in June 2010, NASA established 5 working groups that focus on mapping the barriers for Commercial Space and identify potential solutions to these barriers. During a follow on workshop in July, the working groups have addressed these issues and are working on mapping the barriers and possible solutions. This will ultimately drive the prioritization of where NASA technology development and investment will be steered towards.

    This 'NASA and Commercial Space' section with the Office of the Chief Technologist will provide an up-to-date overview of NASA's activities in Commercial Space.

    Further reading: Questions may be directed to Doug Comstock at

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