Toffler Paper: New Innovators; Same Old Problems
In June, Space Foundation partner Toffler Associates held a meeting in conjunction with the Space Foundation's Space Business Forum: New York where leaders from the public and private sectors discussed the future of the space industry.
Toffler Associates combined input from this group with its own observations, research, and experience plus data from The Space Report 2009: The Authoritative Guide to Global Space Activity, to develop a "Black and White Paper" with recommendations to help secure the future of the U.S. space industry as a global leader and innovator.
Last month, Space Watch carried an excerpt from that paper. This month, we have included an edited excerpt of an additional segment. The entire publication, titled A House Divided Cannot Stand: The Need to Unify the U.S. Space Industry, can be downloaded here. To see last month's Space Watch article, click here.
"New" Innovators, Same "Old" Problems
It should be no surprise that a "New Space" community has emerged. Some new space entrepreneurs are driven by personal commitment, but some are reacting to threats and barriers that slow innovation. In this sense, they see themselves as contrasted with the traditional industry. Most New Space players are entrepreneurs (independent individuals and/or commercial entities) who view themselves as capable of advancing progress by going outside the current system and, therefore, around the barriers.
"New Space" demonstrates some important differences relative to the traditional space industry:
- Foreign competition - New Space players are more inclined, to the extent regulations and other factors allow, to fuel ideas and progress by collaborating with foreign space entities (commercial and government) as well as entities outside the space domain.
- Funding - Many individuals and small companies draw start-up money from commercial industries well outside aerospace, such as Internet and information technology, or debt and equity markets.
- Launch costs - A number of New Space players are focused primarily or solely on "fixing" the launch problem by developing new technological approaches while taking advantage of competitive launch services available from foreign providers to launch experimentation missions and other potentially profitable cargoes.
- Diminution of talent - New Space is attracting talent from the shrinking pool currently available in the U.S., which draws innovators away from Old Space.
- National inspiration - New Space innovators are creating their own sources of inspiration, perhaps in part because they don't see strong enough motivation from the government or other traditional sources. The Ansari X Prize is perhaps the most well-known example of an inspiration created "by and for" New Space.
While New Space has been growing, it has encountered challenges:
- Unrealistic/unsafe vision - Some are concerned that new launch system designs are not fully formed and tested. From this perspective, migrating to a model that depends more heavily on private industry and investment may be imprudent at this time.
- Limited goal - Some New Space entrepreneurs may be overly focused on immediate goals revolving around the space launch business, which may result in quicker commercial payoffs but ultimately may do little to progress innovation for the larger space industry.
- Limited funding - Private funds could cease either by choice or due to debt/equity market conditions, while government funding tends to be more stable over time.
Other topics covered in A House Divided Cannot Stand: The Need to Unify the U.S. Space Industry include threats to space in-novation leadership and how to foster unity and innovation within the U.S. space industry.