A Course for the Commercial Space Age

Nancy Walecki in Harvard Magazine:

AS PRIVATE SPACE exploration companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic make giant leaps for mankind, Harvard Business School is making a leap of its own. Last week, the school launched its first course devoted to outer space, “Space: Public and Commercial Economics,” led by Elbling professor of business administration Matthew C. Weinzierl. To his knowledge, it is the first course on the economics of the space sector to be taught at an elite educational institution. He hopes the 14-session course will “inspire other places to have their own offerings on space and make this something that is talked about at business schools more broadly.”

…For Weinzierl, recent headlines about the privatized, “billionaire space race” tell only a fraction of a much longer story. “On one level, there was a space industry as long as we’ve been going to space,” he said in an interview. “As soon as Sputnik went up in 1957, [countries] started making sure that there were private sector companies building things that would help” their efforts. Then, in the 1980s under President Ronald Reagan, “there was a push to move the sector toward a more commercial basis.” However, the “real inflection point” came in 2003, when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated midflight and killed seven crew members. The Space Shuttle program was then scheduled for full cancellation by 2011. “That really woke everybody up to the fact that, in this centralized model, something was broken,” he says. “If we were not going to be able to put our own astronauts up in space, we needed a new approach.”

More here.