Dubai: Did you know? We have baby food thanks to space technology. Apparently supplements and formulated food, all come from space.
Shelli Brunswick, Chief Operation Officer of Space Foundation’s gentle reminder to take vitamins is more than trivia – it is the future of a burgeoning space economy that has brought us our Zoom calls, remote schooling, virtual doctor’s appointment and card transactions. We certainly don’t think about the 24 GPS satellites in orbit when we fire up our navigation app before a drive.
But we should, insists Brunswick in an interview with Gulf News at Expo 2020 Dubai’s Space Week – because in the next 10 years, the global space industry will be valued at $1 trillion. Currently 80 per cent of that economy in the US is commercial, inclusive of Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX. If the space-developed GPS had not been opened to the public in the 1980s, we would be missing out on life’s most convenient inventions and jobs.
Fashion goes to space
“I do not have a STEM degree but a Master's in Business Administration. There are many paths into the space industry that could come from different backgrounds and interdisciplinary skills,” said Brunswick, who worked as a project manager in the US Air Force before joining Space Foundation in 2015. “We still need people who can pass math for astronomy, but we also need business leaders, artists, media correspondents, fashion designers and photographers.”
Career options in space are as limitless and diverse as the interstellar expanse itself. Think SpaceX and its one-piece white space suits reminiscent of superhero franchises. Musk hired Hollywood costume designer Jose Fernandez to bring some of that coolness beyond Earth, giving astronauts a refreshing makeover even in zero gravity.
Brunswick says entrepreneurs and start-ups looking to break ground can visit business-focused webinars on the Space Foundation website. Experts from Mark Sirangelo, CEO of Sierra Nevada Corporation Space Systems, to Thomas E. Zelibor, CEO of the foundation, will tell firms how they can apply space technologies to grow their businesses. Others predict how space commerce will evolve and the ways in which entrepreneurs can capitalise on these foreseeable changes.
NASA patents up for grabs
“Understand what being an entrepreneur means. I call them problem solvers because they see a problem as an opportunity to solve a challenge in unique ways,” said Brunswick. “Many already have ideas [to execute], but if they don’t then they can go to the NASA Technology Transfer Office or the European Space Agency Transfer Office. There are thousands of patents that are waiting to be commercialised.”
Technology that has taken humans to the Moon and rovers to Mars is waiting to be commercialised on Earth, and the untapped potential lies within innovative entrepreneurs.
NASA’s technology transfer program has an extensive portfolio of patents that anyone can cash in on. Categories are wide-ranging; start-ups can browse options from communications and software to environment and medicine. These portfolios are ideal for brainstorming business ideas and testing waters, says Brunswick.
“A former NFL football player applied for a patent, and NASA supported and helped him to create a new app for physical fitness and health,” she added.
And if the thought of building from ground up sounds intimidating, work for an entrepreneur who is already there. It takes a strong team of marketing experts, financial advisors and budget managers to go to space. The choices are – limitless, as they say.