NASA has its sights set on long-duration stay and travel in outer space, including building a new space station orbiting the moon and eventually voyaging to Mars. To reach its goals, NASA is partnering with commercial companies and laying the groundwork for what could become a massive space industry.
The space industry is expected to take off in the next five to seven years as commercial companies invest in low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, outer space data analysis, manufacturing and energy production. NASA has partnered with multiple commercial space companies to advance the space industry -- two of which include SpaceX and Blue Origin -- to build landing pads for the moon's surface as part of its Artemis program, which aims to establish a long-term presence on the moon.
There are already many avenues for commercial businesses to invest in the space industry, with more on the horizon as entities like NASA push further into outer space, said Col. Pamela Melroy, NASA deputy administrator. Melroy spoke during the Space Innovation Summit Tuesday hosted by America's Future Series, an organization that offers speaker series on issues affecting U.S. global competitiveness.
Col. Pamela MelroyDeputy administrator, NASA
"Through investments that NASA and others have made, we have built an amazing commercial space industry capable of doing extraordinary things," she said.
Emerging space industry opportunities
NASA's work to build public and private partnerships has been a significant enabler of U.S. and international commercial investments in outer space, said André Pienaar, founder and CEO of C5 Capital, during the summit.
Additionally, he said work that commercial companies including SpaceX have done to reduce rocket launch costs has been "transformative" for space investment.
"We're at the beginning of the democratization of space," he said.
NASA's work to build out access to the moon is leading commercial companies to become interested in space tourism, including through building commercial space stations, Melroy said.
"There are four companies NASA has partnered with that are interested in building commercial low-Earth orbit destinations -- that's commercial space stations, which we hope will be ready in about five or six years," she said.
Melroy added that as interest in building space stations and other outer space infrastructure increases, so will job opportunities for skilled manufacturers. Indeed, Ajay Malshe, professor of mechanical, agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue University, said during the summit that resilient and sustainable operations will be critical in outer space, as it is in other extreme environments like offshore oil drilling.
"Manufacturing, assembling and servicing in space is an important part of operating in space," he said.
Melroy said space law is another rising industry that will need significant investment in the coming years. Space isn't governed by any overarching laws, and the U.S. isn't the only country interested in developing a space industry.
As part of the Artemis program, 27 countries have signed the Artemis Accords to provide guiding principles for cooperating in space.
"As we go forward, we should have some agreements about how we're going to behave toward each other," Melroy said. "Principles like transparency, sharing data, not interfering with each other and ensuring space is available to all. Those are the principles that are embodied in the Artemis Accords."
Makenzie Holland is a news writer covering big tech and federal regulation. Prior to joining TechTarget, she was a general reporter for the Wilmington StarNews and a crime and education reporter at the Wabash Plain Dealer.