U.S. Must Spend More To Maintain Lead in Space Technology
FGMSD-80-32, Jan 31, 1980
An assessment was made of the near term potential of manufacturing in space. Space manufacturing would take advantage of the environment of space to produce materials or products which are either superior to those produced on Earth or are believed to be impossible to produce on Earth.
Space manufacturing, with permanent manufacturing facilities in orbit, is not a near term concept. Rather, it is a long-term prospect with definable milestones to be achieved. A wide range of materials science research is needed to provide the necessary scientific knowledge about the influence of gravity on materials processes to determine whether space manufacturing will be economically feasible or desirable. Only limited success can be expected in the near term due to low funding and limited support by the Administration and the Congress, with the possible added result that foreign competitors could rapidly overcome any technological lead in materials science in space currently enjoyed by the United States. To facilitate development of space manufacturing: (1) the United States will need to encourage the participation of American industry in identifying and planning the research that ought to be done; (2) programs will have to give more emphasis to transfering technology to the private sector for commercial exploitation; and (3) the government must commit and risk enough resources to complete essential basic research, fund a large share of developmental and demonstration research, and plan and commit enough resources for whatever follow-on facilities and transport facilities may be needed to enable future private enterprise activities in space.