The Impact of International Partners on the Business Case and Space Law
Posted by Coyote on August 24, 2007
Yesterday I met with a world-famous, economics-minded, globetrotting, space cynic. Naturally, this was at one of the D.C. area’s Irish pubs, which various Internet sources claim is my typical work location. Um…yea. The discussion was too good to keep to myself, so here are some takeaway points for your consideration and comment:
ME: I believe we should seek broad international partnerships for three reasons. First, to reassure the world that that space-based solar power is not a pathway to weaponize space. Second, to garner early support in the international community for additions and changes to space law, customs, and codes of conduct that will be required to make space-based solar power a reality. Finally, broad international partners will help industry find broad international customers to buy our energy product.
Space Cynic: He cautioned that international partnerships add time and cost to everything. With a business case as fragile as space-based solar power, delays and disipating profits among several principle parties will make the business case even harder. In addition, he emphasized the need to create the most profitable business case to get space-based solar power off the ground. Finally, he asserted American industry and infrastructure must have first dibs in order to win domestic political support.
Others have told me that internationalization is a cause, not a business model.
We should keep in mind that government-to-government partnerships have a rocky history. The way America went about the International Space Station hurt a lot of feelings in the international community, but at least it is getting the job done. Europe’s Galileo efforts have been consensus focused and they are still struggling to field the system despite having spent a small fortune (we wish them well, all the same).
International business-to-business partnerships seem to work much better, and well within the business case. The example that comes most immediately to mind is Boeing’s work with numerous European and Asian firms for major subsystems for the Boeing 777 and 787 aircraft. It is not unreasonable to call those “internationally manufactured aircraft.”
So it seems, government should seek international partners to help make the permissive legal regime, while business should seek international partners (as will inevitably be necessary) to build the systems and “get ‘er done.”