NASA, looking to study key drivers of investment in the burgeoning commercial space economy, has selected five proposals to further its research into new and “non-traditional” economic opportunities in space development beyond satellites.

The proposals were submitted to NASA through a competitive NASA Research Announcement and a comprehensive review process for the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA. NASA received 23 proposals in total. It selected just five to pursue further research.

“The 23 proposals submitted to this year’s NASA Research Announcement reflect the interest of an increasingly sophisticated and capable entrepreneurial space community that recognizes the diversity of new opportunities beyond Earth for commercial development,” said L.K. Kubendran, portfolio executive for commercial partnerships at NASA.

Kubendran said the five selected proposals will help NASA “understand the dynamics and potential of future commercial space developments, both in partnership with the government, and as privately funded ventures.”

The five selected proposals are:

Development of a Commercial Space Technology Roadmap: Submitted by MIT, which will serve as a “companion” to NASA’s own technology roadmap. The MIT roadmap will focus  on technology development efforts and needs from the commercial side of space development. MIT said the roadmap will help NASA identify technology gaps, and help “inform NASA where the agency can facilitate technology development for the benefit of commercial enterprises.”

21st Century Trends in Space-Based Solar Power Generation and Storage: Submitted by Colorado School of Mines, to study the feasibility of using space-based solar energy to power “near-term” energy needs for mining and resource extraction in space and on Earth. The research will help understand if private sector and commercial enterprises are likely to be major partners in this endeavor.

An Integrated Framework and Tool for Effective Participation of Commercial Enterprise in Space Development: Submitted by the University of Illinois in Urbana. The proposal aims to deliver guidance on creating an environment that attracts effective contributions from commercial players and investors. It’ll offer quantitative and qualitative methods to identify the space development architectures that are commercial-friendly, and “analyze their synergistic effects with other government incentives.”

Public-Private Partnerships Framework for Multi-Commodity Lunar In-Situ Resource Utilization: Submitted by Planetary Resource Engineering, LLC (Cantebury, New Hampshire), will study the effects of public-private partnerships on both supply- and demand-side markets for lunar resource extraction. The study will focus on byproducts of lunar mining and “draw upon comparisons to terrestrial mining activities, where byproducts often generate more operating profit than a primary commodity produced.” The study will also examine potential byproduct scenarios of lunar mining that can deliver high economic benefits for low incremental costs.

A Rigorous Foresight Approach to Understanding and Modeling the Societal and Economic Impacts of Severe Space Weather: Submitted by Vision Foresight Strategy, which will study potential economic impacts from space weather events that can affect the global economy. The study will offer a comprehensive look at the risks, vulnerabilities, and consequences of severe space weather events, and it will develop an assessment model for forecasting future vulnerabilities and damage estimates.

“Our space technology work is focused on providing new capabilities for robotic and human exploration of the solar system, but we are also here to help enable new commercial markets or enterprises,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA. “The results of these studies provide insights into the potential economic impacts of new space-based capabilities and applications which in turn helps guide our investments in technology development.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Planetary Resources as the source of the selected proposal entitled “Public-Private Partnerships Framework for Multi-Commodity Lunar In-Situ Resource Utilization.” The actual company responsible for the selected proposal is Planetary Resource Engineering, LLC. We regret the error.

Kendra R Chamberlain
Editor and analyst at The Enterprise Orbit, covering new space business and technology developments; freelance journalist covering telecom, renewable energy technology & smart infrastructure.

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