Introduction to in-space manufacturing, in-space economy and alternatively new space economy. Related fields include microgravity services, space resources, in-space transport services, orbital economy, cislunar economy, Moon & Mars economies and dozens more.
Overview of commercial microgravity applications. Both for terrestrial use and in-space use. Listing and analysing potential business opportunities to make unique profitable materials and products in microgravity.
Factories in Space is the largest public database of companies active in the emerging in-space economy and in-space manufacturing fields.
- Jessica Frick, Erik Kulu, Gary Rodrigue, Curtis Hill, and Debbie Senesky."Semiconductor Manufacturing in Low-Earth Orbit for Terrestrial Use." White Paper. Nov 8, 2023.
- Erik Kulu. "In-Space Economy in 2023 - Statistical Overview and Trends." 74th International Astronautical Congress. Oct 6, 2023.
- Erik Kulu. "Space Solar Power - 2023 Survey of Public and Private Initiatives." 74th International Astronautical Congress. Oct 3, 2023.
- Erik Kulu. "Enabling Infrastructure Ecosystem for Space Resources." Space Resources Week 2023. April 2023.
- Erik Kulu. "In-Space Manufacturing of Semiconductors - History and Future Vision." The Workshop on Semiconductor Manufacturing in the Space Domain at Stanford University. March 27, 2023.
- Erik Kulu. "In-Space Manufacturing: 2022 Industry Survey and Commercial Landscape." 73rd International Astronautical Congress (IAC 2022). Sep 21, 2022.
- Erik Kulu. "In-Space Economy in 2021: Statistical Overview and Classification of Commercial Entities." 72nd International Astronautical Congress (IAC 2021). Oct 29, 2021.
- Erik Kulu. "Commercial Landscape of Space Resources in 2021." Space Resources Week 2021. Apr 19, 2021.
- "What excites you about in-space manufacturing?" Filling Space Interview. Feb 26, 2021.
- Erik Kulu. "Statistical Look at Mars Companies in 2020." 23rd Annual International Mars Society Convention. Oct 17, 2020.
We need new economic drivers for spaceflight. Something new and potentially bigger than any existing space industry such as telecommunications, remote sensing, launch and research. This is the missing piece to speed up development for the exciting Star Trek-like future. I believe in-space manufacturing will be the kickstarter and foundation.
In-space manufacturing could be enabler and first customer for numerous asteroid mining, commercial space station and utility companies in space. If asteroid mining will be a $1 trillion business then in-space manufacturing will be a $10 trillion business thanks to all the materials made into products with extra value.
Some more thoughts in my interview What excites you about in-space manufacturing? with Filling Space. There is much more to say and especially do.
If we can establish a Mars colony, we can almost certainly colonize the whole Solar System, because we'll have created a strong economic forcing function for the improvement of space travel. Once we have that forcing function, and an Earth-to-Mars economy, we'll cover the whole Solar System. But the key is that we have to make the Mars thing work. If we're going to have any chance of sending stuff to other star systems, we need to be laser-focused on becoming a multi-planet civilization. That's the next step.
To those of us who feel that space manufacturing offers great potential for human benefit, such a delay seems nearly criminal, but on the time-scale of human existence a mere fifteen years is hardly the blink of an eye.
Most important, in a practical sense, would be the construction of factories that could make use of the special properties of space — high and low temperatures, hard radiation. Unlimited vacuum, zero gravity — to manufacture objects that could be difficult or impossible to manufacture on Earth, so that the world's technology might be totally transformed. In fact, projects might even be on the planning boards in 2019 to shift industries into orbit in a wholesale manner.
Space, you see, is far more voluminous than Earth's surface is and it is therefore a far more useful repository for the waste that is inseparable from industry. Nor are there living things in space to suffer from the influx of waste. And the waste would not even remain in Earth's vicinity, but would be swept outward far beyond the asteroid belt by the solar wind. Earth will then be in a position to rid itself of the side-effects of industrialization, and yet without actually getting rid of its needed advantages. The factories will be gone, but not far, only a few thousand miles straight up.
In-Space Manufacturing Commercial Microgravity Applications
- Make novel materials and products in microgravity and bring back to Earth for terrestrial markets.
- Make large-space structures or new products in space for consumption or utilization in space.
- Materials and products that can not be manufactured or are much better.
- No requirement to survive launch loads.
- Size is not limited by the launcher fairing.
- Use in-situ space resources or recycle existing.
Global Trends Space manufacturing is coming. What are the supporting macro trends?
- Decreasing launch costs (10x-100x)
- Commercialization of space & LEO; NewSpace mindset
- Commercial transportation services, space stations etc
- ISRU, asteroid mining & space resources advances
- Pollution & climate change on Earth; emerging technologies
- Increasing momentum for space exploration and settlement