We’ve had the great fortune to lead Team IDEAS, a collection of best of breed creative, analytic, marketing and operating companies, in design projects all over the world. Among those are Spaceport America and Spaceport Sweden. Last week I spent three days in Las Cruces, New Mexico at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) being immersed in the thinking of the entrepreneurs who are on the front edge of what is called “commercial space.” The idea of commercial space is that it isn’t “government space.” Now, that doesn’t mean that governments aren’t valued partners. In fact, governments are still the largest consumers of space lift. There are signs though that a real market is developing. On the high profile side, it’s been practically impossible not to notice Virgin Galactic’s progress with their White Knight Two/Spaceship Two spacecraft. The have successfully tested the rocket engine and are on track to carry passengers- space tourists- into space from Spaceport America. When? “Soon”. That’s not a dodge either.
This is the very cutting edge of something that has never been done. It is innovation and entrepreneuring at its most classic. I was lucky enough to be on a panel with executives from Masten Aerospace and XCOR—both scrappy, aggressive young companies that have stared all of the problems with re-inventing spaceflight right in the eye and said “We’re going, you can help us lead, you can follow or you can kindly get out of our way!” I am convinced these companies will succeed and equally convinced that the real “market” for commercial space will be a blend of space travel tourism (we like to differentiate between “space TRAVEL tourism” and “Space Tourism” because millions of audiences worldwide will enjoy immersive experiences built around the stories of space who never get into a spaceship), micro and mini satellite launch, cargo to LEO (Low Earth Orbit) and eventually, semi-ballistic point to point terrestrial flights connecting spaceports all over the world in just a couple of hours.
There are a million issues to be solved first…and those are just the known ones! It is always easy to hang crepe. Unfortunately the typical “pot shooters” that make a meagre living creating doubt around innovation while everyone else is busting their butt making it happen are already pontificating. But you know what? These are the same voices that said there would never be color television, personal computers, Disneyland, commercial air travel or a successful moon landing. I’ve met the real, smart, courageous people who are going to do this work. I say the gray and pallid voices of the professional doubters will roll off these pioneers like water off a duck. Just like all of our other innovations, this one will be born. Its heartbeat is strong and its been modeled for decades—read Bradbury, Heinlein, Asimov, Clark. As an entrepreneur, I’m cheering for the “space people.” Better than that, we get to help. Stay tuned folks, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride but so worth it!