Companies Look to Space As the Next Frontier

The Trump administration is trying to give private companies a boost in their efforts to capitalize on space as a business venture.

U.S. President Donald Trump Thursday signed a space policy directive aimed at streamlining regulations on commercial use of space.

Trump signed the directive just days after Space X launched another rocket from California carrying satellites into orbit.

WATCH: Trump space policy

The launch and several others planned for June are examples of private industries’ growing interests in space for commercial and scientific research.

“It’s a bit of a renaissance, a bit of a space 2.0. Finally, the commercial sector is starting to come back and do some really interesting things,” said Will Marshall, co-founder and chief executive officer of Planet, a leading provider of geospatial data.

The company has put up approximately 200 satellites that image Earth’s entire land mass each day. Marshall said prior to Planet, satellite imagery was only taken every year or several years. The regular images of Earth can be used in many different industries.

“You can use that data to improve crop yields so farmers can use it to decide when to add fertilizer, when to add water because we can tell crop yield from orbit. Or, it can be used by a commercial consumer mapping companies that are trying to improve their maps you see online, or it could be used by governments for a wide range of things from border security to disaster response,” Marshall said.

Satellites also orbit the planet for purposes of national security.

“We just launched a few months ago a satellite that was just like this, but also had laser communication. We were able to send at 200 megabits per second high data rates down to the ground and the ability for satellites to actually talk to each other. The same satellites that are put up to look at the Earth could be looking around the neighborhood and doing neighborhood watch for the benefit of national security and space situational awareness,” Steve Isakowitz, president and chief executive officer of the Aerospace Corporation, an organization that works with the U.S. Air Force and intelligence community.

Also orbiting Earth is the International Space Station, or ISS, an outpost of great interest to some major companies and research institutions. The ISS National Laboratory and astronauts inside conduct a wide range of experiments that would not be possible on Earth.

“When you remove the gravity vector out of the equation which is what we’re used to here on Earth, we see certain impacts and phenomena associated with that, such as lack of sedimentation, lack of convection, lack of buoyancy,” said Jennifer Lopez, commercial innovation technology lead at the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS, which manages the ISS National Laboratory.

The space station orbits Earth 16 times a day, with exposure to extreme temperatures and radiation, providing a unique environment for experiments.

Some experiments, including those geared to helping people with bone loss and injuries, may benefit life on Earth; however, the findings can also help with future human exploration into deep space. Lopez notes there is research is “looking at bone loss and muscle wasting in a space environment and the effects that a microgravity environment can have on our biological systems.”

“There is so much opportunity right now in space; Mars is one of those opportunities,” said Chad Anderson, chief executive officer of Space Angels, which invests in the space industry.

While NASA works on sending humans to the moon and Mars, the space near Earth and beyond will become busier as businesses explore this final frontier.


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