How does Nanoracks go about democratizing access to space?

We live in an era often characterized as experiencing the “democratization” of space. One company doing interesting work in this respect is Nanoracks. It has brought various payloads to and from the International Space Station. It further has plans to reuse the upper stage of rockets already in orbit as “Outposts” for new missions. To learn more about Nanoracks, we spoke to Veronica La Regina, General Manager of the European company and Director of Global Engagement for Europe and Asia. 

Can you explain in layman’s terms what services Nanoracks currently offers its customers and which services are most popular?

Nanoracks provides access to space at affordable conditions in terms of resources, time, and prices. Access to space can come in various forms and have various purposes. It could, for instance, be cubesat deployment in LEO, or scientific research in space environments (sub-orbital or orbital). It could also be In-Orbit Demonstration/Validation (IoD/IoV) activities, with services to then return payloads back to Earth after those activities. 

What is the rationale behind turning “space junk” into “agile space stations” called “Outposts”?

Our Outpost fleet will be made from spent upper stages in orbit and other structures after they have completed their primary missions. So instead of throwing these wonderful resources away, we will convert them into orbiting hubs for users all over the world. This is the same approach implemented by people who care about recycling resources here on Earth. To this end, for rockets going to space, Nanoracks will develop mission extension kits.

How did you get involved in this line of work and what do you think are some interesting opportunities for growth in the space industry?

The current time is the best one I could imagine living in! The democratization of access to space is quickly becoming a reality. Traditionally, if you wanted to send something to space, you would need to talk to a government space agency. After a long while, if lucky, you got a ride. If not, your payload would remain on Earth. This must change. The freedom to access space should be a right for everyone. New business models and governance schemes should decrease the barriers to entering and operating in the space sector. Space agencies should take inspiration from agencies in other sectors (e.g. transport and communication) where free market competition is complemented by public investment in the huge costs associated with infrastructure development.