5. CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT PLAN
ASIís Customer Engagement
Plan consists of the following segments;
Defining ASIís Customers
Defining ASIís Message
Defining the relevance of this
message to each customer community
Describing how this message
is to be articulated to the customer community, individually and in its
ASI's customers are in four areas:
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.
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.
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.
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
Implications to the Customers
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:
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.
A lunar power plant, using robotic production of solar
A lunar mass-driver facility, for launching materials
and finished products into lunar orbit, or even to earth.
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
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.
The composite Manufacturing Industry
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.
The Construction Industry
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
That there is a serious opportunity for expanding their
business into extra-terrestrial activities.
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.
That new technology is becoming available, suitable
to their needs.
That solutions are becoming available, from ASI, the
Composites industry, and NASA, to enable application of their expertise
in extraterrestrial environments.
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.
That there will be a rapidly growing customer base for
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:
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.
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.
Reach the parents and siblings of Middle Schoolers with
the idea that NASA is serious about developing a space-based economy.
Convey the idea that one need not be a NASA astronaut
to fly in Space in the impending future.
There are 3 elements to the articulation
Plan to reach each community individually.
Plan to get them to talk to each other.
Plan to get them to come to ASI as a knowledge