Yes, Virginia, There is a Space Industry

What could be more representative of the American space program? Yet  it is so much more!

When I told one of my friends that I was creating a blog about the space industry, she asked, "Is there a space industry after Obama killed NASA?"

First, let's assume for this article, we're talking about manned space and exploration, rather than the thriving industry of putting satellites into orbit so we can get better cell phone reception.

She's referring to Obama's 2010 budget proposal that cancelled the Constellation program, which was supposed to replace the space shuttle and eventually get us to the moon (2020.)  Here's an article in Discovery about it.  And another in Scientific American.  This might indeed seem a death knell for space, or at least for manned space, but there are several things to consider.

First, the Constellation program was already overbudget and experiencing a lot of technical problems.  (Universe  Today reported in Feb 1, 2010, "Also, its estimate costs through 2015 have risen from $28 billion in 2006 to $44 billion today.")  There was also doubts about it being able to meet its deadlines of manned flight by 2015 and the moon by 2020.

What about the shuttle?  It was simply at the end of its life.  The technology was so old, that to repair the shuttle, NASA was having to search the Internet for spare parts.  President Bush actually canceled the shuttle program because we couldn't physically support the craft any longer.  

However, at the same time that President Obama called for the cancellation of the program, he recommended increasing NASA's budget for it to concentrate on other things--increasing the life of the ISS, promoting innovation and technologies, and exploring further on.   As columnist Phil Plait said, "NASA can concentrate on what it should: innovation, pushing the limits, paving the road. Once the road is laid, let others use it."

So, are there others to use the road?  Let's start with the fact that the ISS is International, and other nations have been servicing it, including the European Space Agency and the Russians, who are--or rather were--flying the astronauts to the station when the Shuttle wasn't.  (They recently had trouble with their Soyuz capsules, and now we're not sure we will keep astronauts on the station--weep!--but that's another story.)  So the space industry as a whole will continue, even if NASA died, which it isn't.

In addition, American commercial space is growing--and Obama has given it a nice void to fill.  There are already many companies striving to fulfill the dream of manned space:
  • Armadillo Aerospace (suborbital focused)
  • Bigelow 
  • Blue Origin (suborbital focused)
  • Boeing
  • Orbital
  • Sierra Nevada Corp
  • Space X
  • United Launch Alliance (serves the military; not sure they're looking at manned)
  • Virgin Galactic (suborbital focused)

(Rob gave me this list.  If we missed any, let me know.)  There are also a lot of budding industries to build the craft, make the fuel, create the engines, etc.

Later this week, I'll share an article about how some of these companies are already moving into Cape Canaveral (or negotiating to).  But for now, the answer to my friend's question is, "Yes, Virginia, there still is a space industry."

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft after its test mission.

* Since I have a follower named Virginia, I'd like to state for the record that she did not ask this, but I could not resist the play off the title.

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Caprice Hokstad said...

Wow. Who knew? Thanks so much for starting this blog, Karina. I am so excited that there is more out there than I knew of. Looking forward to all you're going to share with us.

Karina Fabian said...

This is fun. I'm excited to blog about something that isn't all about my writing for a change. I've been collecting a list of topics and will address them. We'll also try to have some fun, too.


Virginia L. Jennings said...

I couldn't resist the chuckle Karina! lolol

However I do have an interesting thought on Obama canceling NASA's programs and handing it off to the private sector. This ends up saving the government from wasting its money...hey!.... AND wait a minute! MORE JOBS are created!!!!!

I will be sad to hear when the iss is no longer manned. Hopefully they will keep people up there for a little longer-> this is what will still inspire the next generation of students to want to be astronauts.

Also-> how funny is that, NASA searching the internet for spare parts! ROFL!

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