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I want to start a space company. Now what?
51 points by gusgordon 949 days ago | 39 comments

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Find a parking lot which has gone unused. Approach the owner
     and offer to either purchase or lease said parking lot, or
     simply provide an attractive revenue share. Charge people for
     parking space.

  2. Locate an unused office building. Similar to the parking lot,
     negotiate with the owner and then charge people for office

  3. Get a bunch of hard drive storage which is accessible online.
     Write some software to let others make use of the storage, and
     charge them based on utilized disk space.
As you can see, I've only scratched the surface of how you might start a space company. It all depends on what kind of space you're interested in. Perhaps more details of what you're trying to achieve will help narrow down the options.


Three solid suggestions.


Study up on Martine Rothblatt.

Per Wikipedia, "she is responsible for launching several communications satellite companies, including the first nationwide vehicle location system (Geostar, 1983), the first private international spacecom project (PanAmSat, 1984), the first global satellite radio network (WorldSpace, 1990), and the first non-geostationary satellite-to-car broadcasting system (Sirius Satellite Radio, 1990)."

All this, back when running a commercial space company wasn't as easy as today :-) And she did NOT have millions like Musk.


Wow, such a interesting life and career just from browsing her Wikipedia page.


First off, how motivated are you really if you can't even write a couple of paragraphs explaining your situation, motivation, specific goals etc.? Second, what sets you apart from the hundreds of millions who read or watched sci-fi and idly entertained similar thoughts at some point?


Looks like he's trying to find out what to do with his life:

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4755778 http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4758669

Never stop dreaming. Don't stop believin'. Hold on to the feelin'.


1. find commercially viable business propositions involving space.

2. Create products and services that fulfill those propositions.

3. Sell them at more than the cost of production.

A few questions to get you started:

Who buys things that go to space?

Who pays to go to space?

What products produced in space are saleable for more than it costs to make them; either in space, or on the ground?


I think the best way for you to realize the complexity behind it, is to take a look here: - http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/rocket/shortr.html

With this you are only scratching the surface, so, as you can see, the journey is quite long. If the reading of the above links does not scare you, and instead, it pushes you to learn more, then you are probably on the right path. So learn, apply, fail, rinse and repeat.

You will also realize that electronics is, as well, an important component of a space company, so you will need to learn that too.


> I want to start a space company. Now what?

Try to strike a deal with a time company, and see if you can merge into a continuum.


best reply!


Here's the fast way to do it unless you're Elon Musk:

Take your pile of investment money. Now, take half of it (or more, if you'd like) and destroy it. Return the other half to your bank account and go home.

Space is a rough business. It's highly regulated. Your competitors are often subsidized entities, sovereign governments, or extremely well politically connected. Testing is hard because you often only get one shot to get things right, and if things go wrong it could set you back years and destroy hundreds of millions of dollars of work (made only slightly better if you have gone to the trouble of spending lots of money on insurance) and could generate a massive amount of bad PR in an instant that will haunt your company for years. Export controls are a bitch. A lot of industry standard parts pipelines are heavily optimized for massively overfunded government contractors so getting your hands on things like radiation hardened CPUs is going to cost an arm and a leg.

And these are all just the problems that aren't related to the core, irreducible complexity of building whatever it is you are wanting to build.

Ultimately any advice is going to be heavily contingent on your goals. Do you want to put colonies on Mars? Hotels in Earth orbit? Telescopes in space? Rovers on asteroids? Do you want to build spaceships, launch vehicles, space suits, scientific instruments?


In a broad sense my advice is this: start small (garage project small); work iteratively; explore some problem space that isn't receiving as much attention as it should; acquire domain knowledge, expertise, and experience with bending metal and hands on the hardware; leverage existing domain knowledge (through hiring or personal experience); make connections; and have a vision.

Some ventures to draw inspiration from: SpaceX (of course, http://www.spacex.com/), Armadillo Aerospace (http://www.armadilloaerospace.com/), XCOR aerospace (http://www.xcor.com/), Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (http://www.jhuapl.edu/), HyperV technologies (hyperv.com), Malin Space-Science Systems (http://www.msss.com/), CubeSat (http://www.cubesat.org/), and the many nanosat missions.

I'll draw special attention to HyperV as an example. They have previous domain knowledge with plasma jet technology as it applies to fusion research and they used kickstarter to fund research into pulsed plasma jet electric thrusters for space applications.

Edit: if there's still interest in this thread tomorrow I'll followup with a list of open problems in spaceflight / space exploration that are amenable to investigations or R&D at a relatively small scale.


"Space company" and "Space flight company" are not necessarily equal. We (GrantTree) have some clients who are trying to do things ancillary to the raw, unforgiving problem of space flight. For example: http://www.noughttwosixty.com/Nought2Sixty/About.html

Not to comment on that specific company, but my point is that space offers far more opportunities for companies than just the problem of how to get there.


Didn't some canadian kids send a digital camera into space, using a weather balloon?

They didn't seem to have any issues with competitors, exports, imported, radiation hardened CPUs...

My point, while seemingly irrelevant, is: All space companies don't have to be NASA. There a probably a gazillion things people could make markets out of that involve space: I would buy a "kit" that let me send small objects to space, or take photos of stars, or take photos of earth...

My secondary point is: Don't just poo-hoo the space industry, because you can't think of anything in that space. I'm sure the Computer industry was difficult to get into before PCs... but people did it.


> Didn't some canadian kids send a digital camera into space, using a weather balloon?

No, they didn't. Weather balloons need an atmosphere to float in, and would've still experienced almost as much gravity as the ground (the force of gravity is inversely proportional to the square of the distance between two objects). Such balloons are typically launched between altitudes of 18 and 37km. In 2002 a balloon did reach 53km but this isn't sufficient to be considered space and is still in the stratosphere.

The start of space is defined by the Kármán line[1] at 100km (62 miles) above sea level, although this is still technically within the thermosphere. The International Space Station orbits at 370km, in space but also in the thermosphere.

[1] - http://news.ycombinator.com/reply?id=5086557&whence=item...


Yes, some kids did do this, but to pick a nit projects like those are usually to "near-space" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-altitude_balloon

See also: - Lego Shuttle to Space: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bluQ4eOeBwo - How To Send a Weather Balloon into Space: http://blog.hartleybrody.com/in-space/ and http://blog.hartleybrody.com/found-balloon/ - Spanish Soccer Jersey in Space: http://www.wired.com/playbook/2010/07/spanish-soccer-soaring...

Your point is fair though. There are a lot of different angles to approach the problem, but it is a very hard ahem space to play in.


There is also copenhagensuborbitals who are attempting to put a man into space on the smallest budget.



I'd be interested in your thoughts :)


I've thought about this exact thing, here's how I think I would do it. this is incredibly naive, but exactly how I would start looking at the problem.

1) get into model rockets - air rockets, water rockets, hobby rockets with real combustable engines (that make loud, cool rocket sounds).

2) learn about quad-copters, model airplanes and balloons as potential high altitude launch vehicles.

2.5) between "getting into" model rockets and quad-copters, you'll be learnig a lot about embedded systems - firmware and microcontrollers that will be the control brains of your rocket and launch vehicle. ..so you obviously have to learn about electronics and programming.

3) start building small rockets - practice launching them with a tiny payloads

4) get accurate in the launches, learn about weather patterns and affects on launch (and recovery).

5) Figure out how to be accurate and hit a target a long distance away - possibly a target that is already flying.

6) find the really expert hobby rocket people to teach you about the big rocket engines that require licenses etc. ..then start building combinations of rockets and launch vehicles that can take larger payloads.

7) do all of this in your garage on a shoe string, take lots of video, share your successes and failures on your blog and maybe just maybe you can figure out how to build a system that you can sell to someone... eventually you're rockets will get to space.

Good luck and may the force be with you.


You'll have to be more specific -- "space" covers a lot. What are you producing? Goods? Services?


Well, when I quit flying I wanted to build software and avionics for the aerospace industry, it didn't work out, you need to be ready for extremely long stretches of time without any income to cold start something like that.

I even started building some toys, I built an artificial horizon and was thinking about building a GPS navigation for private pilots (garmins are too expensive). I even pushed to github some of that code. (https://github.com/eduardordm/inav)

In that time I found the path to actually have some chances of succeeding without expending millions of dollars: start as a sub-contractor.

You see, flight in general is a huge industry. We all praise Elon and SpaceX but we tend to forget that there are hundreds of smaller companies that made his venture possible. From QNX to a small paint factory in Florida.

So, concentrate in getting involved by doing work for those smaller companies, with time, you will have the expertise to open your own.


The Shark, we just jumped it. :(


Step 1: Write the next PayPal.


Here is an interesting question: What would be the cheapest rocket or combination of rocket/ balloon/ place that you could buy essentially off the shelf today that would boost something into orbit?


Now here's something: I want to do a great space company web site.

My company is wodumedia.com.

All I ask is that your company (idea) be at least as good as the web development and it's a deal. We can swap development for some interest. If you're interested, @mikemongo or mm at website.

BTW why I want to make this deal is BECAUSE SO MANY SPACE COMPANY WEBSITES ARE TERRIBLE and so it is a good idea to give an example of what a great space company website may look like. Easy-peasy lemon squeezy. Hit me up.


Not sure if serious, but your question is too vague. A space company can be someone who develops software for satellites. Maybe someone who develops a small satellite itself. There are many niches in space. The now what? depends on what you pick.

Now, if you want to build spaceships, then you might want to apply for a job at NASA, Lockheed, etc. See what it takes to go to space and learn from what they are doing.


I am investigating the potential for constructing deep space ships for research, exploration, transportation and mining in the Solar System. I have no idea how to begin though. I do however have an estimated cost for the orbital construction facility as well as the cost of the first ship, est. size and weight, close to an Ohio class Nuclear sub. I am a middle class citizen, so funding is my problem.


estimate cost of Facility, 3.8 billion

estimate cost of first ship, 1.2 billion


Well, the easiest part is that space is free and there's a lot of it.

The hard part is everything else.

Maybe there is a way, if you consider building "micro satellites" a "space company". Sensing, research, etc could be done. The base hardware is already very expensive though, and you would need to hitch a ride in a rocket (maybe for a fee -> $$$$$)


Have you considered if you the expertise for Space? Elon Musk is a physicist by training so he can also be the chief designer - any mistakes there and it is essentially his fault. If you have millions to invest, would you trust someone to do the designing, knowing that a single mistake on their part might mean you lose all the money you put into the rocket?


Many of us would like to give you constructive advice. However, we would need more information on what you intend to have your company do in order to provide this feedback.

One suggestion I can give is to find like-minded people. You're not the only one that has an interest in space or a 'space company' ;)


1. Buy cheap space 2. Sell cheap space for profit 3. Use profit to buy more cheap space 4. Sell more cheap space for more profit 5. Buy even more cheap space 6. Rebrand it as "[Generic Buzz Word] Space!" 7. Sell for even more profit 8. Repeat until sued or retired.


Get really good backers. Because of production costs, car manufacturers can barely handle having a single car in their portfolio fail. I can only imagine with higher expense and a smaller market, aerospace products would have an even lower resilience to failure.


Start it.

EDIT: Non-snarky response: Some more detail would be nice. What advice can we give to "I want to start a space company"?


Find ways of getting the government to steal money on your behalf and call it enterpeneurship.


What makes you qualified to start a space company? We need a bit more on the specifics.


Theoretically what is the size of the smallest rocket that could reach LEO?


Check out this: http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=2847.0


Work hard for 20 years


"Space" is not a business idea. This is like saying you want a business for deserts.

Find "what" you want to solve before "how".


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