Friday, August 20, 2010

The Astronaut Company

My mother tells a story that when I was six years old, I told her I wanted to own an “Astronaut Company”; not “be an astronaut” but own an astronaut company. No surprise, years later, I work on the business side of the aerospace industry. And so I have been following with interest the start of Astronauts for Hire, a non-profit organization tasked with preparing the next generation of commercial astronauts.

It is not hard to imagine a future where Bigelow stations dot low earth orbit and business owners are evaluating opportunities in orbit on such facilities. One big question for businesses will be the human question: as a business owner, how will my efforts on orbit be carried out?
  • Who will maintain my experiment on orbit? 
  • Who will run my camera for the film shoot? 
  • Who will pack the latest batch of protein crystals for their return trip to earth? 
  • Who has the micro-gravity experience to serve as Butler and maids at my hotel?
  • Do I bring these resources up to station with me or purchase a more turn-key solution where I provide the mission and others provide the space station and astronaut solution?
Astronauts for Hire offers a piece of that puzzle. Bigelow will no doubt hire/train a core group of astronauts themselves, especially initially. But if another company(s) can provide astronaut services at a lower cost, down the road, Bigelow may happily subcontract this portion of their service.

Additionally, I can envision a day where the rich and powerful own space yachts made out of customized Bigelow modules that they purchase for hundreds of millions of dollars each. Such yachts may need to be tended when not in use and serviced with the owner on board. An astronaut company could offer such a service. Such a need for a commercial crew, will expand the scope of the “astronaut” from scientist and pilot to include, perhaps, any human service performed on earth – all carried out in micro-gravity.

Currently, Astronauts for Hire’s service is limited to training the next generation of space pioneers. This training could grow to actually offering scientists on orbit as needed, and eventually for A4H or another company to offer any “LEO Human Service” on orbit. Scientists, pilots, repairmen, construction workers, cooks, maids, and more. This would be the true Astronaut Company.

This only confirms: all my best ideas I had by age six.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the very well-articulated summary of Astronauts4Hire. You hit the high points of the company and its promise for the future quite well. One exception is that our current services go beyond just training; we're also available for hire right now to manage payloads and experiments on zero-g flights.

    We definitely plan to be The astronaut company to which everyone turns for all astronaut needs in the future. If you're interested in getting involved with the organization or just want to discuss ideas, contact me at brian.shiro at