npj Microgravity Review Article: The economics of microgravity research
This article by Jeanne M DiFrancesco (ProOrbis, LLC, Malvern, PA, USA) and John M Olson (Lakeville, MN, USA) was published online by npj Microgravity on May 27, 2015.
In this introduction to the economics of microgravity research, DiFrancesco and Olson explore the existing landscape and begin to define the requirements for a robust, well-funded microgravity research environment. This work chronicles the history, the opportunities, and how the decisions made today will shape the future. The past 60 years have seen tremendous growth in the capabilities and resources available to conduct microgravity science. However, we are now at an inflection point for the future of humanity in space. A confluence of factors including the rise of commercialization, a shifting funding landscape, and a growing international presence in space exploration, and terrestrial research platforms are shaping the conditions for full-scale microgravity research programs. In this first discussion, the authors focus on the concepts of markets, tangible and intangible value, research pathways and their implications for investments in research projects, and the collateral platforms needed. The opportunities and implications for adopting new approaches to funding and market-making illuminate how decisions made today will affect the speed of advances the community will be able to achieve in the future.