ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. â€” As global society reaches for the stars, top U.S. military brass, government leaders and industry representatives are discussing launch of a new space commodities exchange that could facilitate trade and grow the nationâ€™s technological prowess to maintain U.S. leadership in space.
The exchange could economically stimulate the industry and optimize price and quality standards as products like data from satellites or launch services get traded like commodities, said Col. Eric Felt, head of the Air Force Research Laboratoryâ€™s Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base. It could include a commitment by the U.S. Department of Defense and NASA to execute $1 billion in existing funding through the exchange.
â€śWe could bid on things like satellite components or solar cells for spacecraft,â€ť Felt told the Journal. â€śSay we need a satellite picture of a backyard on a specific day and at a specific time. There are some (hundreds of) satellites in orbit, and operators could bid on the opportunity to meet that request.â€ť
The exchange is one of six key recommendations contained in a new â€śState of the Space Industrial Base 2020â€ť report, released July 28 by a panel of government experts based on a four-day virtual conference May 4-7 that included 120 space leaders. The DODâ€™s new Space Force, the AFRL and the Defense Innovation Unit led the conference, which the local industry association New Space NM organized and hosted.
The report promotes a national, public-private strategy to ensure U.S. dominance as space travels intensifies and as government and industry strive to return to the moon and continue on to Mars and beyond. It calls for â€śwhole-of-government,â€ť or â€śNorth Starâ€ť vision for space industrial development with a presidential task force to execute it.
Other recommendations call for:
â€˘ DOD action to protect, support and leverage commerce in space like shipping lanes at sea.
â€˘ Financial tools like the proposed exchange and space bonds to stimulate industry.
â€˘ A new international framework to partner with allies in space.
â€˘ Government and industry efforts to develop the domestic workforce to fill 10,000 science, technology, engineering and math jobs across the nation.
â€˘ Military partnerships with commercial space companies to build new technology.
The conference and report reflect a government commitment to strengthen and advance the countryâ€™s space industrial base as an integral part of defense strategies, said Peter Wegner, co-chair of New Space NMâ€™s executive committee and chief strategy officer at Seattle-based space company BlackSky.
â€śItâ€™s recognition at the highest policy levels that a healthy U.S. industrial base is critical to national security and economic security going forward,â€ť Wegner said.
The growing emphasis on public-private partnerships means burgeoning opportunities for space companies beyond big legacy firms like Northrop Grumman or Boeing, since the DOD wants to tap into the agile, innovative capacity of startups to rapidly develop new technology. And that bodes well for New Mexico, said New Space NM founder and CEO Casey DeRaad.
â€śWe have a bustling startup ecosystem here that could help us emerge as a leader in the new space economy,â€ť DeRaad said.