Saturday, January 22, 2011

11 Space Business Ideas from NASA JSC

"Bottle Suit" Concept
Last Thursday, NASA’s Johnson Space Center published the presentation, Human Spaceflight Affordability: Advanced In-house Development, a series of projects…space problems, that they would like to go solve (or work toward solving) using “primarily civil servants” but willing to “engage non-traditional partnerships” when needed.

On the one hand, JSC is looking to keep its workforce busy on value-add projects, so it is not surprising they are seeking to accomplish these projects primarily in-house.

But more importantly for an entrepreneur, JSC has just published eleven problems they believe are worth spending money to go solve. Can you close a business case around all of them…no. Will JSC solve them  But some of these ideas could be developed and offered commercially. 

Here is my summary of the eleven ideas, but do read JSC's full presentation.  For some of the ideas JSC goes into significant detail of their development plans or their proposed final solution.
  1. Dual purpose EVA suits: for space and surface work. Focused on grit tolerant joints. 
  2. Suit-Port: Half a space suit, rear-entry, easy access, eliminates pre-breathing, low risk of contaminating habitable environment.
  3. Man-In-A-Can/Bottle Suit: personal space pods for extended Astronaut EVA’s (see the image at the beginning of this post)
  4. Low-Mass/Low-Volume Exercise equipment. Perhaps wearable robotics to simulate the gravity’s effects on muscles (the opposite of what such exoskeleton projects are used for on earth).
  5. Free-Flying Cameras: Remote controlled cameras for inside and outside space stations. Deployable through the JEM airlock.
  6. Down Mass from ISS: capsule to return low-mass, high-value payloads down to earth from the ISS. Deployable through the JEM airlock.
  7. Demonstrate Earth aerocapture prior to using technique for future human missions
  8. “The Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle (MMSEV, or just SEV) is a pressurized robotic vehicle designed to carry two astronauts to various destinations in space.” When in space, the MMSEV is similar to idea number 3. Put wheels on the MMSEV and it drives around the moon. (page 163 of this NASA document for an MMSEV overview)
  9. Advanced Environment Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) – develop now for when humans need to travel a long way from home.  Significant work could be done advancing this idea without the need for rocket launch.
  10. Beyond LEO Habitats.
  11. Use ISS Waste to make propellant (maybe to fuel Free-Flying Cameras listed in number 5).
Eleven ideas. Thanks JSC. Entrepreneurs, sharpen those calculators.

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