Broadcast 1567 (Special Edition)Broadcast 1567 (Special Edition)

The Space Foundation Conference

31 May 2011 Dr. Thomas Matula
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Guest: Dr. Tom Matula. Topics: Space commerce, closing the commercial space business case. You are invited to comment, ask questions, and discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, Comments, questions, and any discussion must be relevant and applicable to Space Show programming. Transcripts of Space Show programs are not permitted without prior written consent from The Space Show (even if for personal use) & are a violation of the Space Show copyright. We welcomed our friend Dr. Thomas Matula back to the show to talk about commercial space develop now and in the future, with or without the support of NASA. Dr. Matula will definitely stir the pot with some of his comments and conclusions regarding commercial space development and the current state of the industry. We started off with Tom suggesting that we do not have commercial space just because of a fix priced contract or a Space Act Agreement. The government is the customer, the primary source of money and government needs and specs are driving the industry at this time. He said over and over again during our two hour program that the challenge for the commercial companies is to be able to resist being overwhelmed and taken over by the government to be just another government contracting company. He suggested this happened to Orbital and when pushed for an example of a company from any business or industry that withstood the changes forced on them through government money and oversight, he could not think of even one example. This was based on a question I asked him near the end of the program. Listeners asked him about the space tourism market as a driver and he had much to say about this throughout our discussion. In terms of public/private partnerships, early in the show he talked about COMSAT and that type of model, comparing it what is happening now in the industry. I think you will find his COMSAT comparison most interesting as it does differ from the developing commercial industry of today. Other topics discussed included lunar mining and here Tom suggested it would be robots that commercially open the Moon, not people. As you will hear him say throughout the discussion, commercial will prove to include a small number of people supporting robotic money making opportunities on the Moon and elsewhere in space. He said real commercial will only happen when the projects serve the markets and needs of people on Earth. As our discussion evolved, he talked about starting small and scaling up. Later in the program, Tom made it clear that taking government money was very risky and he urged commercial space businesses to seek markets elsewhere. When challenged for markets today, he said they had to find them because the risk of being overwhelmed by the government world was very very high. In the second segment, we talked about visionary business leadership and management. When a listener asked him for a time line and the priorities for developing a commercial space industry, he said 15-20 years and that first, markets with Earth value had to be found and exploited and then a working business model had to be developed. He repeated his call for commercial companies to look for other markets, not the government. Earlier in the program, Tony sent in an article which I partially read about a San Francisco businessman paying $100K to bright kids to work on their dream project and not go to college. You can read about this at If you have questions or comments for Dr. Tom Matula, post them on blog URL above. You can also email him through me at



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