Monday, May 16, 2011

NASA's Commercial Crew/Cargo Market Assessment

NASA has released a 40-page Commercial Crew/Cargo Market Assessment for Low Earth Orbit.  RLV News pointed me to the softcopy – thanks Clark.

Here is NASA’s summary of the next ten years of projected commercial demand for cargo and crew to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) with commercial demand ranging from 7K-60K lbs of cargo and from 44 to 360 commercial astronauts.

Here are the Nuggets from NASA's assessment I found especially valuable:
  • Crew Transportation drives the overall market.
  • 4 Commercial Crew/Cargo Markets: (1) Countries lacking Space Programs, (2) Space Tourism, (3) Applied Research, (4) Other Markets – Satellite Servicing, Media, Education
  • Report looked at a ten year time horizon
  • Report excluded NASA Crew/Cargo usage - commercial usage only
  • The average ISS crew member uses 10.3 lb/cargo per day (based on historical NASA/Russian usage)
  • 4 Space Tourism Growth Constraints: (1) Crew Transport Availability, (2) Cost per customer, (3) lack of destinations besides ISS, (4) long training time
  • ISS’s Upmass Requirements 2011-2020 = 318K lbs: (1) Core Systems/Operations = 194,820 lbs, (2) Funded Research = 80,067 lbs, (3) National Lab Utilization (unfunded) = 43,266 lbs
  • Current ISS limitations as a research platform: (1) Inadequate HW/instruments to support research, (2) lack of frequent and affordable up/downmass to/from ISS
  • Report concludes that availability of up and downmass is “a major constraint to development of the market” and quotes the National Research Council as saying, “conditioned down mass of particular importance…”
  • Current research on ISS: Basic Research. Over next ten years, ISS research will gradually shift to governments paying for proof of concepts and private ventures pursuing commercialization of successful proof of concepts.
  • NASA is on contract to purchase 132K lbs of ISS cargo through 2015. According to the authors, NASA ISS cargo demand from 2016-2020 is currently flat for another 132K lbs
  • 4 Classes of Research conducted on ISS: (1) Biology/Biotech – 70% of ISS research to date, (2) Earth Observation, (3) Physical/Material Sciences, (4) Technology Development/Space Qualifying
  • United States does 36% of the research on ISS
  • But only 9% of all research on ISS to date is “Commercial” in nature – and even this “commercial” research to date has been subsidized by non-commercial sources.

  • Although not presenting very much new data, the authors confirmed and consolidated a significant amount of commercial market data into one place
  • The authors relied heavily on industry values to determine the upper end of these markets.
  • The authors never exceeded industry's optimism.  The authors in every case established low end demand by extrapolating from history.
  • Although mentioning the critical importance of downmass to station research, the authors did not provide a downmass demand estimate for the next decade
  • I look forward to the day when commercial research on orbiting stations far exceeds the current 9%!
  • Overall, a very helpful report (if, perhaps conservative) that will stay on my shelf as a reference.

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