The NASA Ames Research Center is known for establishing innovative partnerships and Pete Worden, the former Air Force general who serves as the Center’s director, is known as a maverick. Still, the latest joint venture to come to light has caught even some longtime NASA observers by surprise.
Under supervision from NASA Ames, inmates working in the machine shop at California’s San Quentin State Prison are building Poly Picosatellite Orbital Deployers (PPODs), the standard mechanism used to mount tiny satellites called cubesats on a variety of launch vehicles and then, at the appropriate time, fling them into orbit.
Worden got the idea for the partnership with San Quentinwhile he was at a party, talking to the spouse of a NASA employee who happened to work as a guard on the prison’s death row. When the guard mentioned the prison’s critical need to establish innovative education and training programs, Worden, a former University of Arizona professor, said, “How about building small satellites?”
The space wars are heating up. As it stands right now, the Russians have the biggest for-hire space program, but their fleet is aging. The new players on the market, like Space X, are competing for the future of that market.
Which will look something like this. Every country rich enough to afford it, and big companies, will be sending probes, satellites, and people into space. They will pay a private company to do so and eventually the market will be the opposite of what it is now, where governments dominate and private industry supports.
Here is an example of that:
A Japanese rocket has lifted off with a South Korean satellite in Japan’s first commercial launch of a foreign probe into space.
The HII-A rocket lifted off from a remote southwestern Japan island carrying the South Korean probe and three Japanese satellites.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, a private company in charge of HII-A rocket production since 2007, is hoping to compete with the U.S., Russia and Europe as a launch-vehicle provider. This was its first contract to launch a foreign probe.
The Korean satellite, KOMPSAT-3, was developed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute to monitor the environment. The rocket also carried Japan’s Shizuku satellite to monitor climate change and two smaller Japanese probes.