Reports

October 24, 2017

From Sailing Ships to Space Ships: An economic history of the manner in which commercial space transportation companies have utilized outside assistance historically available to emerging transportation firms.

Excerpt from the report:

The Blue Origin experience raises two fundamental questions relative to the future of human space flight.  First, can private entrepreneurs accomplish what heretofore only public officials, with their access to substantial tax revenues, have been able to do?  That is, can entrepreneurs raise enough money to create privately owned space transportation companies?  The ability of business firms to build rockets is not in dispute.  Their ability to raise sufficient funds from private sources is.

 

Second, if they can, to what extent do they need government help?  Heretofore, business firms building spacecraft depended upon government contracts to stay afloat.  The new space movement that Bezos represents is different.  It presumes that privately financed spacecraft companies can sustain themselves through revenues drawn from a combination of private consumers, international customers, and government agencies.

 

Experience to date, it appears, suggests straightforward answers to these questions.  Privately financed space transportation is possible.  Government help is convenient, but not essential.

July 01, 2014

Historical Analogs for the Stimulation of Space Commerce

Co-author Robert D. Lannius produced this report on historical analogs for the stimulation of space commerce a part of the effort to understand the role of government in stimulating new activities. It identified methods used in the past to encourage growth of the railroad, aerospace, and telephone industries as well as public works, Antarctic research, an scenic and cultural conservation zones.

May 01, 2013

The Economics of Innovation: Mountaineering and the American Space Program

In 2013, Howard McCurdy produced the enclosed report on the commercialization of mountain climbing on Mt. Everest as an analog to the commercialization of space travel.

January 13, 2003

Strategic Planning Study: Government Roles in Creating Markets for New Technologies

Seeking a Balance: Government Roles and Private Markets

From the report:

Rarely did they do it alone. Throughout the history of the United States, entrepreneurs launching businesses based on new technologies invariably have received government assistance. The assistance has taken many forms, but its provisions has been essentially constant.

When the Wright brothers, local inventors of seemingly independent means, set out to construct a powered flying machine, they asked for government help. In the Spring of 1899, Wilbur Wright requested that experts at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., provide him with a list of current publications on the problem of flight. The Smithsonian Institution had been established by the U.S. Congress some fifty years earlier for the purpose of increasing and distributing knowledge. The Smithsonian Secretary, Samuel Pierpont Langley, was himself engaged in experiments with flight. Using a U.S. War Department contribution of $50,000, matched by an equal allocation of Smithsonian funds, Langley had constructed his own flying machine. He launched his powered Aerodrome eight days before the Wright Brothers successful ascent at Kitty Hawk. His effort collapsed into the Potomac River, prompting one congressman to complain that "the only thing he ever made fly was government money."

This report outlines the means of government support historically available to commercial activities such as road building, canals, airplanes, shipping, agriculture, and overseas investment.

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A Science, Technology, and Space Policy Initiative