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Thursday, May 12, 2022

Commercial Space Opportunities


Entrepreneurs create a space “academy” as commercial space flourishes

This is a bet that the long-promised space economy continues taking off.

ERIC BERGER 5/10/2022

A group of astronauts, engineers, and business executives is betting on a vibrant space economy by launching a new initiative called "Star Harbor." Among several planned activities, this spaceflight campus would train future astronauts and make facilities such as a neutral buoyancy laboratory and high-gravity centrifuge publicly available.

Star Harbor has already acquired 53 acres in Lone Tree, Colorado, for about $25 million, said Star Harbor founder and Chief Executive Maraia Tanner in an interview. The company plans to open the mixed-use development campus, just south of Denver, beginning in 2026.

The centerpiece of the new development will be Star Harbor Academy, Tanner said, estimating its development cost at $120 million. The academy will include the capability for microgravity flights, a neutral buoyancy facility, high-gravity centrifuge, land-based and underwater habitats, hypobaric and hyperbaric chambers, a human performance center, and more.

Starting with payloads

Initially, Star Harbor will seek to serve research and development customers, such as university groups, startup companies, and other ventures that don't have access to facilities to test their payloads. There are only a handful of facilities around the world with some of the amenities built to mimic spaceflight conditions, such as a centrifuge or large pool, Tanner said, and most of those are reserved for government use.

"I think that there is a lot of new technology and new ideas being brought to the forefront," she said. "But there’s a bottleneck in moving them forward that we’re really looking to assist with." In this sense, Star Harbor seeks to become a technology incubator and may accept payment from companies in equity.

Tanner said she expects that about 60 percent of Star Harbor's revenue will come from such research and development efforts, with a much smaller segment initially derived from commercial astronaut training.

But that could change over time. Presently, NASA astronauts train primarily at NASA facilities for their orbital missions, and space tourists taking suborbital flights on Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic vehicles train at those companies' own facilities. However, Tanner said, there is already an unserved market that is expected to grow. ... '

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