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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Entrepreneurs and NASA Need to Meet at Wallops Island Soon

The collision of public and private organizational cultures has the capacity to enable positive results in American innovation. Such a result is needed at the Wallops Island, Va. spaceport between NASA and the nascent entrepreneurial NewSpace firms that might be actively recruited by state and local economic development officials.

NASA Wallops is not engaged in the launch of people, tourists, or otherwise into space. The rigor of manned space flight is out of the scope of Wallops activities. The Wallops Flight Facility remains focused on its core mission of providing high quality, low cost provision of Test and Operational Range services for NASA and the nation,” this Blogger was told in a post to the Virginian Pilot in a well-meaning yet well 'in-the-box' traditional culture statement.

NASA's organizational culture may well be focused on "providing high quality, low cost provision" of range services. But that service does not preclude niche commercial space activity on the federal launch facility by private entrepreneurial space firms. The two are not (or should not) be mutually exclusive. In fact, that is what the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport is supposed to be all about -- enabling commercial activity.

NASA Wallops organizational strengths will be of benefit to the entrepreneurial firms that may be recruited to base private facilities to fly suborbital tourist flights from the Eastern Shore range. The entrepreneurial firm strength may bring non-traditional and techno-innovation insight into the NASA culture at Wallops. There can be multi-directional and multi-dimensional positives.

Virginia's 2007 General Assembly needs to take a look-see legislative study as to why the nascent NewSpace entrepreneurs are looking to Ohio, Oklahoma, New Mexico and other locations while passing on a well-established FAA licensed commercial spaceport with "high quality, low cost provision of test and operational range services" for human suborbital tourist flights.