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5. CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT PLAN

ASIís Customer Engagement Plan consists of the following segments;

  1. Defining ASIís Customers
  2. Defining ASIís Message
  3. Defining the relevance of this message to each customer community
  4. Describing how this message is to be articulated to the customer community, individually and in its integrated form.
ASI's Customers

ASI's customers are in four areas:

  1. NASA. The initial customer for ASI technology and products is NASA. The relationship with NASA is projected to be one of partnership, where NASA buys ASI technology and supplies technical assistance as well as launch services and infrastructure support. Initial products are anticipated to be space station replacement parts, and lunar surface facility parts.
  2. The Composite Structures industry. ASI's technology will use binders and resins, currently employed in manufacturing using composite materials. In the long term, ASI technology will use many techniques of composite manufacture. In addition, there is a strong advantage to ASI technology as a supplement to earth-based composite manufacturing because of the jig-less feature of acoustic shaping.
  3. The Construction industry. ASI technology opens the way to manufacture large, thin panels out of low-cost, low-grade raw materials, either in low-gravity environments such as the lunar surface, or in orbit at the future L-2 Space Station, or in Mars orbit. This is the key to growing an extra-terrestrial economy (ETE). The potential for such low-cost, large scale production of panels, bulkheads and walls is unprecedented in the history of space exploration, and as such is outside the realm of traditional aerospace construction: it enters the realm of traditional construction industry on Earth. Getting this industry involved in ETE is the key to building the huge and varied paraphernalia of human society.
  4. The Middle School Community. Students and their parents get intensely interested in deciding career options when students are in middle school. Hence, this is the right community to inform and educate about the multitude of opportunities opening up in the future ETE. In particular, this is recognized as a crucial endeavor at Georgia Tech, because it enables us to convey to the right population, the synergy between technical conceptualization, and all the other aspects of human endeavor that it enables.

Figure 1: Customer Base of ASI

Engagement Strategy: ASIís Message

The ASI team has limited resources, being comprised of students taking full course loads. As such the Customer Engagement effort has to be strictly bounded, and has to seek the maximum impact within those constraints.

ASI has drawn up a two-pronged interactive approach to commercial Customer Engagement that lays emphasis both on new product development and on customer relationship development. ASIís strategy will not only be aimed at proactively designing new products that have the potential to be commercially useful in developing a space-based economy, but will also be oriented towards interacting with Customers to elicit user requirements for the future. This interactive approach will lead to commercially viable new product development. Interestingly, this approach also has a spin-off of the possibility of new applications of products with new customers.

Figure 2: ASIís Two-pronged approach to Customer Engagement

ASI's message is that the development of infrastructure is the key to a space-based economy. Shortsighted one-time profit making ventures cannot form the basis of a sustainable space-based economy. A strong economy can be established only with the development of infrastructure to provide the backbone for future development. The foundation of the American Economy was laid when infrastructure was created in the 1930s and 40s: now ASI aims to usher in a New Deal for Space Colonization.

This message offers aspects of interest to each of the customer communities, as discussed below, and is the integrator that will bring the different customer communities into communication with each other.

Implications to the Customers

  1. NASA
There is a growing realization that an all-out, one-shot Manned Mission to Mars is fraught with risk, of technical failure, funding disappearance, and, even in the event of total success, an evaporation of public interest after the event. This became clear at the end of the 1999 NMB program, as the different teams presented the results of their deliberations on Business Plans for a Manned Mission to Mars. MIT's ThinkMars team, as an example of a well-considered effort, planned to develop venture capital funding on the promise of advertising revenue from TV coverage of the mission, and the rights to sell Mars rocks and technologies gained during the mission. The downsides were the following: (a) A $10B dip in Net Present Value over the first 18 years of the venture, with an anticipated return in investment contingent on mission success at the first attempt. (b) The total loss of investment if the mission failed, for any reason at all. (c) The danger that there would not be a massive spike of viewer interest during the actual mission, for example, if other world events at the time drew the viewers away, or if there was a large meteorite fall somewhere, which saturated the space-curio-seeker's market for several years. The recent failure of two Martian landers, despite intense attention, has severely eroded confidence in the reliability of one-shot missions.

ASI's message, on the other hand, is for NASA to take the lead as a government agency, to develop the technology needed to build extraterrestrial infrastructure. Three projects with immense promise:

  1. An External-Tank Farm in earth orbit. Suggested many years ago, this remains an exciting prospect, given that there are several STS missions remaining. The cost of reducing payload, to the extent needed to boost the external tank into orbit, is minimal. Given that the expertise to assemble the ISS exists, it is feasible to assemble a tank farm from, say, four to six external tanks. Two or three of the tanks would be refurbished for human habitation and workspace usage, with the others, arranged around the inner tanks, used as storage space and protection from micrometeoroid impact. A modification of this may be to use a TransHab based space station expansion, to greatly increase the pressurized habitation space and workspace available on the ISS.
  2. A lunar power plant, using robotic production of solar cells.
  3. A lunar mass-driver facility, for launching materials and finished products into lunar orbit, or even to earth.
  4. The construction of ISS-2 at the Lagrangian Point L-2, with 50 to 80% of the construction to be performed in Space, using materials derived from the lunar surface. These are activities to be conducted within the reach of Earth-controlled robotic systems, and are hence achievable in an incremental, long-term manner, with greatly reduced risk. They provide the enabling infrastructure, both to bring the commercial interest that will boost the HEDS program, and the risk reduction that will make Mars exploration attractive.

  5. There is an argument that such an investment in infrastructure will dilute and fragment the limited funding that NASA gets for the Mars effort. To this, the counter-argument is that this is constricted thinking. If commercial interest agrees that there is a serious, long-term plan from NASA, the funding to NASA will be seen as real commercial investment, not as an emotionally satisfying investment in some vague future scientific advantage. It is not a zero-sum game. This is the message that we plan to develop for NASA.

  6. The composite Manufacturing Industry

  7. This is a special customer community, particular in some ways to Acoustic Shaping technology, but with broader prospective interests. Composites are at the core of aerospace manufacturing today, and are an example of how basic aerospace engineering techniques have produced vast benefits for humanity. Departing from the metallic notion of isotropic materials, composite technology has developed methods where material strength is concentrated where it produces the most effect. This idea has also led to the field of nano-structures, where structural components may be assembled at the molecular level, with strength-to-weight ratio orders of magnitude better than what is possible today.

    The composite industry's attention will be sought, to the idea that structures can be built in microgravity from fibers and resins, using sound. Moldless manufacturing of aircraft parts may actually be cheaper and faster to do in space. Today, much of spacecraft construction still uses aluminum sheet metal for low cost and reliability. The advent of space-based composite manufacturing can change this dramatically.

  8. The Construction Industry

  9. The Earth-bound construction industry knows and cares much more about building roads, hotels, shopping malls, schools and hospitals than the aerospace industry does. This is the industry which must be engaged if a space-based economy, and infrastructure, are to develop.

    Issues to be conveyed to the construction industry are:

    1. That there is a serious opportunity for expanding their business into extra-terrestrial activities.
    2. That there is an opportunity to articulate their needs related to regulations and business environment, in the context of a strategic priority of the nation.
    3. That new technology is becoming available, suitable to their needs.
    4. That solutions are becoming available, from ASI, the Composites industry, and NASA, to enable application of their expertise in extraterrestrial environments.
    5. That ASI and NASA will provide an attentive source for the information and related knowledge that they need to develop their expertise in space-related activities.
    6. That there will be a rapidly growing customer base for their products.
  1. Middle-Schoolers

  2. This community is generally treated as part of the "Outreach" programs of NASA. We donít disagree with that approach, but our interest in this community goes beyond that of "Outreach". By engaging this community, our purpose is the following:
    1. Get students to think about an integrated Earth / Extraterrestrial economy, and what it will be like to live in it. Children who grow up thinking this way will be able to conceptualize and implement ideas for the space-based economy far easier than todayís adults.
    2. Engage even those who have no interest in going into technical careers, by showing that the problems of developing a space-based economy require the skills of people who generally think of themselves as being far outside science and engineering.
    3. Reach the parents and siblings of Middle Schoolers with the idea that NASA is serious about developing a space-based economy.
    4. Convey the idea that one need not be a NASA astronaut to fly in Space in the impending future.
Articulation Plan

There are 3 elements to the articulation plan.

  1. Plan to reach each community individually.
  2. Plan to get them to talk to each other.
  3. Plan to get them to come to ASI as a knowledge integrator.
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