6–10 January 2020
Hyatt Regency Orlando,
Orlando, Florida

Future Space Economy Could Be for Everyone


Moderator Frank Morring Jr., retired space senior editor, Aviation Week & Space Technology; Ariane Cornell, head of astronaut strategy and sales, Blue Origin; Dan Dumbacher, AIAA executive director; Lon Levin, president and CEO, GEOshare; John Tylko, chief innovation officer, Aurora Flight Sciences

by Lawrence Garrett, AIAA web editor

AIAA SCITECH FORUM, San Diego, Jan. 8, 2019 — Panelists in the “Exploration for Everyone” session discussed how rapid advancements in aerospace technologies through government-private collaboration are reducing costs and leading to an inevitable expansion of space access for the world.

Frank Morring Jr., retired senior editor of Aviation Week & Space Technology, said that over the past 50 years or so, the space industry has come full circle, having evolved from a Cold War-era space race to today’s “space free-for-all,” where “everybody’s playing.”

Although the U.S. government and private industry are heavily invovled in space, Morring said, many new players also “want a piece of the action,” including China, India, Australia and many others. He noted that a lot of new businesses are creating completely new industries, such as additive manufacturing.

Morring said he hopes industry can begin the discussion “about how we can meld the traditional aerospace and government space orgnizations with the new players who are coming online.”

Lon Levin, president and CEO of GEOshare, said the world is taking advantage of things getting smaller and less expensive.

“I’m interested in a couple of things: the new technologies that are available now … for space exploration … and new ways to fund getting that technology into space for new reasons, some of which is to make money,” Levin said.

Levin observed that new space agencies and startups are being created worldwide, particualy in the U.S.

“We’ve had 500 startups in the last five years in space, which is extraordinary,” said Levin, crediting the phenomena to the new state of affordability and the fact that space access is no longer “the province of just very large, wealthy nations.” Levin said other nations now understand it’s important to be part of the space economy.


Participants in the panel discussion "Exploration for Everyone,” Jan. 8 at the 2019 AIAA Science and Technology Forum and Exposition (AIAA SciTech 2019) in San Diego.

Dan Dumbacher, AIAA executive director, compared what’s happening in today’s space world to what took place in the private, commercial aircraft world in the 1930s and 1940s.

“There was a transition from military-driven aircraft into a commercial operation, from an aviation perspective,” Dumbacher said.

Dumbacher said the space industry is in the process of transitioning from the mostly top-down approach that guided it in the 1960s to more of a “build the ecosysem” approach that will leverage the enormous amount of skills and capabilities that exist throughout the government and private sector.

“There are skills and capabilities needed, and the government can’t do it all,” he said. “In fact, the government doesn’t do it; it does it through our industry partners.”

Dumbacher called the prospects for the future space economy “open-ended and very positive.”

Ariane Cornell, head of astronaut strategy and sales at Blue Origin, echoed Levin’s remarks.

“What we’re trying to do with reusability at Blue Origin precisely is bringing down the cost of accessing space so that more entrepreneurs can get more businesses and get more technology up there into space and take advantage of space resources,” she said. “We’re very proud to be able to support that.”

Ultimately, Cornell said, dramatically reducing the cost of accessing space is the end-goal.

“We can’t have millions of people living and working in space if there are only a handful of companies with massive amounts of capital to be able to do that,” she explained.

Watch the full video for more details.

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