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The boom in commercial space continues

Starship on an early test flight
Modern rocketry soaring under freedom

Capitalism in space: In the last two days there have been so many stories about different space companies winning new contracts I think it is important to illustrate this in one essay, rather than in multiple posts. Below is the list:

The last two stories are possibly the most significant, because both show that the shift in space from government-built to privately-built, as I advocated in my 2017 policy paper, Capitalism in Space, is spreading to other countries. First, one of Germany’s three startup rocket companies appears to be in a strong position, with money in the bank and signed contracts. Second, South Korea’s government is going to spend more than a half billion dollars helping its private space industries take over control and construction of future space assets. From this last article:

The time has come to make a departure from state-led development of space launch vehicles toward one in which the private sector plays an expanded and more active role,” said Yong Hong-taek, the science ministry’s vice minister, in the statement.

The policy reconfirms the government’s commitment to accelerating public-to-private transfer of space technologies. It comes as SpaceX and other innovative private companies play increasingly important roles in the global space industry. In the first move of this kind, since May, KARI and Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have transferred their satellite-manufacturing technologies to a handful of major aerospace companies here.

While the science ministry didn’t identify the companies that would benefit from the latest tech transfer, the most likely beneficiaries include Hanwha Aerospace, Innospace, Perigee Aerospace and Korean Air. [emphasis mine]

It is not clear from the article exactly how the government plans to distribute this money. It could be they will issue contracts to private companies to build what it needs, as NASA has been doing, or it might be that the money will simply be subsidies to help these private companies get started. The difference is important, as the former forces the private industry to act to make money, while the latter is more like welfare that acts to discourage innovation.

Either way, this action by South Korea indicates that the U.S.’s success in shifting control to the private sector and thus develop a thriving and competitive space industry — as forcefully documented by the first four stories above — is convincing other nations to follow suit.

Starship banned
Rocketry squelched under government control

Of course, success like this always brings out the jealous weasels who want to either horn in on other people’s success, or act to squelch it because they can’t do it themselves. Two op-eds yesterday reveal such people:

Talk about killing the goose that laid the golden eggs. It doesn’t matter that capitalism and freedom is what is fueling this success, and socialism and regulation has always acted to kill it. These ignorant writers want control over this new industry, so that they can impose their vision on the future. That their tactics have always led to failure, poverty, and bankruptcy — as illustrated by the government-run space programs that have accomplished practically nothing in the past half century — does not matter to them. They are the geniuses who will get it right this time.

Rather than forcing this new space industry to fight with government bureaucrats to get their rockets, spaceships, and space stations launched, we need to give this industry more freedom, so that its participants can compete against each other. Freedom and competition will not only bring wealth to these companies, it will bring it to the masses, as the cost to go to space will plummet. New businesses will spring up to take advantage of the lower costs. New innovation and technology will soar, as we have already seen in the past decade. There will be more opportunities for all.

Freedom always wins, if we give it the chance. I just hope we do so, rather than take the advice of small-minded socialists and government bureaucrats who merely want power for themselves and no others.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • Patrick Underwood

    Anyone else have trouble loading the comments to the TechCrunch article?

  • Questioner

    Is this boom or a bubble?

  • Questioner:

    A ‘bubble’ requires an already established cyclic market. Outside comm satellites, there isn’t an established commercial space market.

    The photo captions might have been combined under the first image: ‘Modern rocketry soaring despite ‘freedom”.

  • Edward

    How do these steely-eyed missile men succeed? They have the vision of what they want, the will to do it, and they are willing to fail trying. Bill Whittle, Steve Green, and Scott Ott have a thing or two to say about it: (14 minutes)
    “Elon Musk is doing this, and he is swimming upstream against a culture that fifty years ago would have been pushing him on. Now he’s fighting against this culture, ‘well, it’s bad for the environment.'”

    From the Jacobin Magazine essay by Spencer Roberts:

    How can space exploration serve society? Our first priority must be to decarbonize space flight.

    That does not serve society. It comes from a man who uses powered transportation, uses power at home and at work, and purchases goods and services that are produced and delivered by using power. If his first priority were to decarbonize anything, it should be to decarbonize his life, otherwise he is only another hypocrite claiming priorities that he does not even believe in.

    However, to call Spencer Roberts a hypocrite only emboldens him, because leftists are like three-year-olds, wanting everything their own way, and wanting someone else to take care of their diapers when they get soiled.

    The steely-eyed-missile men are willing to learn the hard way, through trial and error, the lessons of what we do not yet know. They have their priorities right. Just as in the early days, when governments used truly hazardous materials and leaving their junk in space, today’s commercial companies are already more environmentally friendly, using less hazardous materials and willing to deorbit their space debris before it becomes debris.

  • Jeff Wright

    The Soviets of old were Cosmists…who saw rockets as a part of modernity when Progress was not a dirty word. I support both private and public efforts.

    Friends: I have sorrowful news to relate…not only has Libertarian space author L. Neil Smith passed away-but Winchell Chung…Nyrath to us at Starship Modeler…has been struck with cancer. He of the ATOMIC ROCKETS website projectrho.

    It isn’t fair. I would trade places with him if I could-as I have contributed nothing in comparison. Hawking…storm chase legend Matt Biddle…and now this.

    It seems the higher one casts one’s gaze-the surer the hand of fate is in bringing one low. Curses….

  • Questioner

    Blair Ivey:

    Yes, my question relates first and foremost to the communications sector (on systems like Starlink) and to the space transport sector, where there is likely to be a massive oversupply of launch vehicle capacity.

  • Questioner:

    Fair points, but that’s how things work, whether space launch capacity, or biological carrying capacity of a stream. Demand expands until resources are inadequate, then corrections occur. Applies to a lot of things. It can be managed, but only if the managers understand the process.

  • Edward

    Blair Ivey wrote: “It can be managed, but only if the managers understand the process.

    It can also only be managed if the system is not too complicated that it overwhelms the abilities of the managers. This is why central control of economies goes so poorly. The number of goods and services and managing the supplies needed for them is too large to control from a central location. If a poor decision is made or if conditions change, it takes a long time before the controllers can get back to make corrections, because they are too busy with the next set of products to control, then the next, and the next, and …

    In the case of the launch industry, new launch companies may be so efficient that they drive old companies out of business. It is one reason why Rocket Lab is already making improvements to its Electron launch system, trying to stay ahead of the coming competition.

    Nature and free market economies have shown that these self-regulating systems are best left to their own devices. The U.S. Department of the Interior decided, a century ago, to manage fires in our forests, putting them out as quickly as possible. This policy only resulted in so much undergrowth that we now get worse fires than we did back then. Some regulation may be good, but too much is bad.

  • wayne

    Metallica –
    “No Leaf Clover”

    “And it feels right this time,
    On this crash course with the big time.
    Pay no mind to the distant thunder,
    New day fills his head with wonder, boy…
    Then it comes to be that the soothing light at the end of your tunnel,
    Was just a freight train coming your way.”

  • Edward:

    I would argue that “understanding the process” involves an idea of what can, and cannot, be influenced with the resources available. The ‘Serenity’ prayer. See? It’s all connected.

  • It can also only be managed if the system is not too complicated that it overwhelms the abilities of the managers. This is why central control of economies goes so poorly.

    Couldn’t agree more, Edward. And compared to managing the detailed choices of 330 million individuals, spaceflight – as complex a challenge as it is – is at the level of LEGO­® assembly.

    It is sheer hubris on the part of our political elite, to think they can successfully micromanage either … but especially, the former. They CAN’T know each of those individuals well enough to decide for them and not assume the SERIOUS risk of harming them … which is a direct affront to their unalienable rights.

    But they, and we, keep thinking that they can be trusted to do so, even as we complain about their numerous failures.

    This is a fundamental problem of social technocracy … and our total trust is a big Part of That Problem.

  • Edward observed: “It can also only be managed if the system is not too complicated that it overwhelms the abilities of the managers. This is why central control of economies goes so poorly.”

    I am flabbergasted that this is even a topic of discussion. This question was settled decades, if not centuries, ago. Time may be a helix, but at some point, we have got to learn. Do the same things over and over, get the same results. Probably the primary reason I don’t have much faith in the species. I like people: I just don’t think we have staying power.

  • Edward

    Blair Ivey wrote: “I am flabbergasted that this is even a topic of discussion. This question was settled decades, if not centuries, ago.

    There are people who think that they should be telling others what to do, and they reject the lessons of history, and will prevent the teaching of that history. They desperately want the world to work the way they think it should, so when they want to control the spread of disease, they demand that we wear surgical masks. When they want the economy to work a certain way, they demand that they control the economy. When they think we shouldn’t produce carbon dioxide, they change the temperature record so that it fits their theories. The love of theory is the root of all evil.

    However, the world works the way the world works, and it is only when we work within that method that we do well. This is why free markets do better than controlled markets and why capitalism works better than complete individuality. When we choose for ourselves what to buy and what to produce, we all prosper. When we are able to combine our resources in order to produce what people want, everyone prospers. When they direct people as to what to produce and what to purchase, we do not prosper, because we only get what they want us to have, not what we want to have or what is actually best for us.

    It is difficult for those who want to control it all to understand this, and those who want liberty tend to project their innocence onto the tyrants, so they do not defend themselves from those tyrants. Just as the tyrants believe they can control it all, the rest believe the tyrants have their best interests in mind. Masks are in our best interest. Central control will end the Great Depression. Freezing in the dark will prevent the coming Ice Age.

    But it never works out that way.

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