First ISS Commercial Deal Tests Water for 21st Century Space Exploitation

Published June 4th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

A first-time commercial deal agreed by US space agency NASA and a Silicon Valley-based partner about how best to exploit the International Space Station (ISS), sets the stage for a new sort of space-age activity. 

NASA's partnership with the private firm Dreamtime Holdings, announced Friday, will put images of celestial objects on the Internet and will send television broadcasts from the new space station. 

"Not only does this bring the space program into partnership with Silicon Valley, but the partnership also puts NASA at the forefront of the information age. This is innovative government at its best," Goldin said. 

Calling the move "the first step" in the commercialization of the United States' space program, Goldin said: "This is an experiment; this is a risk." 

The endeavor is, indeed, an absolute first for NASA which has always refused to let its spacecraft or missions be used for purely commercial ends. 

Some months ago, though, NASA published a study suggesting the sort of costs that laboratories or institutes might pay should they want to carry out experiments in the US part of the ISS. 

US Congress had, in fact, declared in 1998 it favored using the ISS for private ventures to allay some of the cost of the operation, which brings together 16 countries and is not expected to be fully constructed until 2005. 

The station currently comprises two units -- the US-built Unity module and the Russian module Zarya -- but is envisioned as having over 100 components once construction is completed. 

In a report, NASA said it would reserve "an initial allocation of 30 percent of ISS resources and accommodations for the use of commercial enterprises." 

The report's author Christopher Falherty, a strategic planning specialist with the agency said: "ISS research, coupled with a dramatic reduction in the cost of access to space could lay the foundation for the full commercial exploitation of human presence in space in a foreseeable future. 

"Early customers may seek to extract value primarily in the form of entertainment, experience, or advertising, as these are likely investments with the quickest returns," Falherty concluded. 

Under the newly announced deal with Dreamtime Holdings, meanwhile, NASA will provide its entire archive of images taken from space for Dreamtime to organize in a searchable database available to the public on the company's website, as well as to television, handheld computers and interactive television systems. 

While the public will be able to watch the broadcasts, astronauts will also use them to troubleshoot possible problems on the station and to prepare for missions to the station. 

The website, www.dreamtime.com, is set to launch in six months. In addition to the pictures taken from space, the site will also include documents, schematics and sounds from NASA's archives -- WASHINGTON (AFP)  

 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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