Fifty years ago, the United States and the Soviet Union conducted the only significant national space programs, and only a small number of commercial entities were involved in space activities. Since then, the space sector has grown to include more countries, and it has diversified to integrate technologies and innovations from other sectors. Private funding for space-based ventures has increased dramatically over the past decade, and there has been a rapid growth of a private space sector, which now includes familiar companies such as SpaceX, as well as less familiar but equally innovative ones, such as Planet Labs and Spire, among others. As a result, major parts of the space sector are changing, from being largely driven by government and several large commercial enterprises to being more segmented—and therefore more open to participants—and globally integrated. These changes are electrifying for many people, raising new hope that the vision of incorporating the solar system into the economic sphere may finally be feasible. But the changes are wrenching for the old guard that created and nurtured the first government-led wave of the space enterprise. What do these trends mean for the US government agencies and departments that spend in excess of $40 billion annually on space-based activities? This talk will explore the globalizing and democratizing landscape of space.
Dr. Bhavya Lal leads strategy, technology assessment, and policy studies and analyses at the IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI) for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the National Space Council, and Federal space-oriented organizations including NASA, the Department of Defense, and the Intelligence Community. She has applied her expertise in engineering systems and innovation theory and practice to topics in space, with particular focus on commercial activities related to small satellites, space nuclear power, on-orbit servicing assembly and manufacturing, human exploration, and space science.
She is currently serving on a National Academy of Science (NAS) committee on assessing the relative merits of infrared vs. visual observations by a space-based telescope to detect and characterize asteroids that might prove an existential risk to life in Earth. She recently co-chaired a NAS Committee on the State of U.S. Electronic Parts Radiation Testing Infrastructure for Space Applications, and was previously vice-chair of the NAS committee on Achieving Science Goals with CubeSats, and member of the NAS committee on 3D Printing in Space. She is serving a second term on the NOAA Advisory Committee on Commercial Remote Sensing (ACCRES), and participated on the UN Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) to develop an international scientific roadmap for small satellites. She co-organizes a seminar series on space history and policy with the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. She co-founded and is co-chair of the policy track of American Nuclear Society’s annual conference on nuclear and emerging technologies for space.
Before joining STPI, Dr. Lal was president of C-STPS LLC, a science and technology policy research and consulting firm. Prior to that, she was the Director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Studies at Abt Associates. Dr. Lal holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in nuclear engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a second M.S. from MIT’s Technology and Policy Program, and a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Public Administration from George Washington University.