This guest contribution is part of our ISS20 series commemorating 20 years of continuous human presence on the ISS through a collection of visionary contributions on the future of space.
Jana Stoudemire leads Space Tango’s commercial market creation in low Earth orbit for biomedical and technology discovery and manufacturing applications.
The microgravity environment is a new frontier for innovation that expands the definition of “global” to include 250 miles up in low Earth orbit. By exploring this unique environment with industries of all kinds, we can improve humanity.
When Congress designated the U.S. portion of the International Space Station (ISS) a national laboratory, now recognized as the ISS National Lab, it set the cornerstone in the foundation of today’s space economy in low Earth orbit.
The Current Space Economy
Over the last two decades, we have witnessed amazing progress in the continued growth of the space economy. Current market segments, consisting primarily of commercial rockets, satellites, and ground communication systems, are valued in excess of $400 billion and are expected to exceed $1 trillion over the next two decades, according to the Space Foundation’s Space Report. Low Earth orbit provides satellites a necessary vantage point, one of the unique and more commonly recognized factors of space, for observation and communications.
The impact of the space economy benefits everyone. Global satellite weather images and internet connectivity are only a few of the many benefits of the current space economy that have become a part of our daily lives.
With the recent launch of “American astronauts from American soil on American rockets,” an opportunity created through a public-private partnership between NASA and SpaceX, we witnessed the continuation of space commercialization and the establishment of capabilities that increase access to space for both people and cargo.
The Future Space Economy
Space Tango is expanding the space economy in low Earth orbit by creating additional valuable market sectors that harness another unique factor of space: microgravity. Microgravity can affect the physical properties of materials and fluids as well as biological systems. Microgravity as an innovation platform allows Space Tango to create solutions that simply do not or cannot exist terrestrially. The implications for both discovery and manufacturing of health and technology products are significant and have the potential to create a paradigm shift for a broad range of traditional industries here on Earth.
We believe the emerging market sectors for health and technology products produced in orbit will take advantage of the unique physical and biological changes that occur in microgravity and offer significant solutions that will benefit humanity.
As access to space increases, so does the pace at which Space Tango is developing automated capabilities to support in-orbit production. Space Tango’s establishment of Current Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) capabilities, required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for manufacturing products intended for human use, is also critical to enabling biomedical manufacturing in space. NASA continues to be supportive in helping us achieve our vision of creating new markets in the low Earth orbit space economy through public-private partnerships.
With expanded access to space, public-private partnerships, and ongoing work on the ISS, the stage is set to accelerate progress in the development of a robust commercial space economy. In the 1980s, we were still learning what the internet was and how to use it. Twenty years later, it was a critical e-commerce enabler in our global economy. Today, it’s hard to imagine how we ever lived in a world without it. Space stands to set the same precedent. The development of capabilities and infrastructure over the last 20 years have positioned us perfectly for the same kind of accelerated progress over the next decades that will make it hard to imagine how we ever lived without space as a part of the definition of a global community—or the benefit it will have for humanity.
Astronauts experience a cognitive shift in their awareness, known as the overview effect, when they view Earth from space; similarly, the microgravity effect on physical and biological systems has the ability to forever change our cognitive understanding of science and the potential for new discoveries. Space Tango is committed to inspire, innovate, and create a better future for humanity utilizing the unique environment of space.