Posted: 14 September 2016, 3:25 p.m. EDT
Panelists: Moderator Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator, Space Technology Mission Directorate, NASA; James Crawford, founder and CEO, Orbital Insight Inc.; Steve Jolly, chief engineer for civil space, Lockheed Martin Space Systems; Justin Kugler, business development engineer, Made in Space Inc.; Bernard Kutter, manager of advanced programs, United Launch Alliance; Arun Prakash, managing director, Carbon Arrow Advisors
by Ben Iannotta, Aerospace America editor-in-chief
Technologists and space business experts offered a positive appraisal of prospects for revenue growth in low Earth orbit, from remote sensing to manufacturing in orbit to new modes of in-space transportation.
“We believe it’s the right time to invest in space,” said Arun Prakash, managing director of the consulting company Carbon Arrow Advisors.
He and other experts discussed this growth potential in the “Technologies for the New LEO Economy” session Sept. 14 at AIAA SPACE 2016 in Long Beach, California.
In the remote-sensing realm, James Crawford, founder and CEO of Orbital Insight Inc., said he expects even finer resolution commercial imagery to be on the market in the years ahead. In the U.S., just how fine the imagery will be is subject to the government’s restriction on resolution, currently 30 centimeters for commercial sales.
In response to an audience question, Crawford said he does not expect privacy concerns to be an issue for remote sensing from orbit. He said that at the current resolution limit, “you can basically tell a minivan from a car.”
He predicted that privacy will be more of an issue for commercial unmanned aircraft, with resolutions as fine as 1 centimeter possible from the maximum altitude of 400 feet for drones in U.S. airspace.
Participants in the panel discussion, "Technologies for the New LEO Economy," on Tuesday, 14 September, at AIAA SPACE 2016, taking place 13–16 September 2016, in Long Beach, CA.
Bernard Kutter of United Launch Alliance, which launches U.S. Delta and Atlas rockets, said the company’s Advanced Common Evolved Stage, or ACES, concept is a key element of the company’s plans for opening cislunar space to humans. He noted that ACES will be larger than the Centaur upper stage.
“It means we will no longer be limited by the number of burns we can do,” he said. “We can refuel the stage by adding hydrogen and oxygen” from Earth or someday possibly from extraterrestrial resources, he added.
Steve Jolly of Lockheed Martin Space Systems noted an irony about the cost and difficulty of reaching orbit. Limited access to space generated enormous interest in miniaturization. “So it’s actually been a benefit,” prompting such trends as piggy-back payloads on rockets, he said.
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