back to contents


Business Plan Summary

Acoustic Shaping Inc.

EarthBase R&D Center, 225 North Avenue
School of Aerospace Engineering,
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta GA30332-0150


ASI will lead the space-based manufacturing industry of the 21st century, continually reducing the costs associated with space exploration, habitation, and development.


ASI will provide:

Business Description

At $5,000 per lb. to Low Earth Orbit, the cost of shipping components and machine tools from Earth is a large obstacle to the human venture into space. ASI provides a solution to this problem: manufacturing using sound waves to form surface shapes in microgravity, from granular or liquid-state materials. ASI will offer non-contact, flexible manufacturing of components to Mars explorers and to the construction business in the Solar System. Initial operations located on the International Space Station (ISS) in low Earth Orbit will serve near-term customers on ISS, using material shipped from Earth. As revenue and markets develop, the primary manufacturing facility will be located in lunar orbit to help build the second ISS, and start lunar mining. As this market develops the main manufacturing facility will be built and located at the Mars orbital station. Material brought from lunar and asteroid

Orbiting Space Station [MarsSociety,1998]

mines will be turned into precision-formed components at ASI. Products will be delivered by aerodynamic decelerators to customer sites on the planetary surface, and carried on Cycler Shuttles to customer sites in GEO / LEO / lunar orbit. From these beginnings, ASI will lead the space-faring construction business in the Solar System.


Space-related business accounts for over $121B/yr in 1998. Currently, all items are shipped from Earth, at costs-to-orbit of over $5K per lb. The International Space Station alone is expected to grow to an Earth-weight of over 1 million lbs. by 2004. Demand for Space-based construction is projected to be $20B/yr in 2005, rising to $500B/yr by 2020 as human space exploration progresses. ASI's role in this market is both as market enabler and as supplier. ASI's customer base consists of two types of industries:

  1. NASA and Aerospace firms contracting to NASA and ESA for construction of :
2) Customers for Earth-based products, such as composites, crystals and optics that require high purity, high precision products.

As Space Commercialization proceeds, these firms will transition to serve the developing commercial markets on Earth for the development and habitation of space, with attendant increases in size.

Examples of ASI-built products are:

Competitive Edge

ASI's core technology is the Acoustic Shaping technology proven by our team in over 200 parabolas of microgravity flight on NASA's KC-135. Our core competence includes the depth and breadth of technical/ business/marketing capabilities from schools and research labs at Georgia Tech, one of the premier technological institutes of the world. Access to Georgia Tech translates into a complete capability across the life-cycle of this technology.

Artistís concept of a potential Mars mission, from NASA Web pages, showing connected pressure vessels to form habitation modules. From [Mars Society, 1998 ]

These Earth-based facilities offer complete concept-to-test capability, spanning such areas as System Design and Life-Cycle Analysis/Simulation/Optimization, Booster technology, Hypersonic Controls, Spacecraft Attitude Control, Re-entry Aerothermodynamics, Acoustics, Modeling & Simulation, and aerodynamic glide/ decelerator technologies.

ASI seeks partnerships with the entities leading Space Exploration: NASA, the large aerospace companies Lockheed-Martin and Boeing, as well as a leading technological university, Georgia Tech. The ASI team in particular, and the Georgia Tech schools in general, are models of the future engineering environment envisioned by NASA, our project teams integrating diverse technical disciplines as well as people from all parts of the world.

Glimpse of an ASI Manufacturing Facility

At the core of the space-based Phase-Controlled Acoustic Shaping Technology (PCAST) facility are 10 Acoustic Chamber modules of various sizes, with up to 25 individually programmable speaker systems each. The chambers are pressurized with a suitable gas such as nitrogen. Raw material is received at the orbiting station and converted to the desired particle size or liquid characteristics in a preprocessing plant. The temperature and pressure are brought to the needed levels, and a pre-selected sound field is imposed. The material is fed into the chamber along with the binder component, so that the mixture solidifies along the desired surfaces; some processes will use solar / microwave heating or rapid cooling. After curing for the appropriate time, the formed shape removed, finishing processes applied, and the part is loaded back into transporters.

Business Location

Manufacturing will be located in orbit to use jitter-free, long-duration microgravity essential for quality control. The first location will be at the ISS to serve customers in LEO and GEO. The next will be in lunar proximity, to participate in ISS-2 construction and help initiate lunar mining. With material coming from lunar mines, the Mars station will be built and moved to Mars Orbit, for access to the Martian surface market and to major transfer orbits for missions throughout the Solar System. Mars orbit offers convenient access to Earth, to Earth's Moon, and to the Asteroid Belt. Subsidiary locations in lunar orbit allow exchange between raw materials from the Moon, and finished products.

Example of Mars Mission Cost Reduction Using ASI Technology

As an illustration, we set out to calculate the cost effectiveness of manufacturing a fuel tank under our ASI assembly line verses that of the conventional method of sending it up to the Mars orbit from the surface of Mars. The payload is a 1500kg "orbit taxi", powered by a liquid methane/liquid oxygen engine. As shown in the figure, such a tank , once reduced to a standard ASI product, can be manufactured at a marginal cost of $270K under current assumptions. The figure shows that this cost is dominated by the cost of shipping the raw material for the tank from Earth, and the cost of human operations in space.

Fundamental Enablers Identified

The above suggests two approaches to cut the cost constraint, which appears to face every startup company in space-based business.

  1. The first is the use of materials from extraterrestrial, low-gravity environments.
  2. The second is the extensive development of robotic material-handling capabilities, to minimize the need for human intervention in the manufacturing process.
Both of these suggest major roles for government interest in developing the technology and infrastructure needed to enable the development of a space-based economy.

Business Strategy

ASI realizes that space-based manufacturing requires a tremendous initial capital outlay to fund both the facility prototypes and the full sized manufacturing facilities. To offset some of these initial costs, ASI will initially use a small-scale, flexible-use facility based on the International Space Station. Rental costs for this facility can be reduced through Joint Endeavor Agreements, bartering with NASA and the ISS, and user contracts. The small-scale facility can be used to produce bioengineering products, optics, and small panels and composite materials.

Through collaboration with other enterprises, such as lunar mining companies, ASI can work with NASA to use the Mars mission to develop large-scale manufacturing facilities in Earth and Mars orbit. Manufacturing capabilities will be marketed to supporting industries as they become appropriate. As the space-based economy becomes more developed, ASI expects to move into the role of facilitator and technology provider to other space-based manufacturing companies.

Market Size

In 1998, total spending on items that could benefit from micro-gravity manufacturing was nearly one billion US dollars. This estimate includes companies from the aerospace, biomedical and semiconductor markets. Based on estimates for market penetration and growth, ASIís projected cash flows have a baseline or worst case Net Present Value of $290 million for a single manufacturing plant. This estimate includes an initial start-up cost of more than a billion dollars, comprised primarily of the cost of Earth-launch of 100 tons of facilities, infrastructure and raw materials. This cost will be financed primarily by debt and partially by venture capital.

There are a number of possibilities that would reduce ASIís startup costs, as discussed before.

Implementation Plan Summary

Phase I: Concept Validation The ASI team is composed primarily of undergraduates, with several in their freshman year. Thus, for the next 3 years, it is expected that ASI will continue to be a university-based R&D team operation.
    1. NASA-GT collaboration to demonstrate technology on the NASA KC-135 Microgravity Flight Laboratory, 1996 - 2000. Over 200 parabolas flown; successful validation with various parametric variations.
    2. Development of the concept through NASA TRL (Technology Readiness Levels) 1 through 3, with NASA support, in joint project with NASA/ USRA.
    3. Sounding rocket tests to enable testing of surface hardening in microgravity. 2000-2002
    Phase II: Technology Development
    1. NASA-GT experiment: Advance Technology Readiness Level to the stage needed for STS flight with model-scale production plant, 2002-2003.
    Phase III: Production on ISS; Capital Infusion (Pilot)
    1. NASA/GT/ASI/Other Aerospace company partnership to send scale model production chamber to ISS-1 to gain operational experience with producing space station parts. 2004 - 2005
    2. Dual-chamber production plant placed in orbit and docked to ISS; goes into production. 2005-2007.
    3. Automation of dual-chamber plant with resupply using STS and other launchers. 2005-2007.
    Phase IV: Production in lunar orbit / ISS-2 construction
    1. Dual-chamber plant flown to lunar orbit / L-2 Lagrangian Point to begin construction of ISS-2. Year 2009.
    2. First raw material from Moon surface, Year 2010
    3. Construction of ISS-2: Years 2009-2011
    4. Construction of commercial facilities (e.g. "Hilton L-2") in orbit using material from lunar surface. 2009-2012
    5. Construction of lunar surface facilities for mining, exploration and tourism: 2009-2015
    6. Construction of Mars Orbit Station pieces in lunar orbit, 2011-2012
    7. Mars station shipping and assembly. 2010-2015
    Phase V: Revenue Generation and large-scale production:
    1. Phobos material mining & delivery system. 2020
    2. Mars surface operations 2020-2022
    3. Mars station expansion 2013-2019
    Phase VI: Out to the Solar System
    1. Asteroid Belt Transit System 2020
    2. First Solar System Expedition module delivered from Mars orbit facility, 2021
Project Organization

ASI plans to grow through 4 distinct stages. Stage 1 is a university based R&D/ Product Development Project, organized into functional teams. This is appropriate for a 4 year incubation/synergistic growth period (team leaders need to graduate). Stage 2 is an incubating-company: with intense interaction with NASA initial space flights. The functional teams will evolve into project task forces. In stage 3, is a focused project in partnerships with NASA and industry. The task forces will evolve into product focused division. In stage 4, the mature technology corporation will have divisions focused on various markets. Today we are in the first Phase, a university student team. Our team structure from last year is given below:

Project Team
Name Responsibilities/expertise
Richard Ames Business Management & Finance
Alana Boleman Financial Analysis 
Don Changeau Flight Test Engineering
Adam Coker Product Development
Olivier Deigni Financial Analysis 
Avinash DíSouza Flight Testing 
David Francis Customer Engagement
Bala Ganesh Financial Analysis 
Justin Hausaman Space Operations
Martin Hinson Financial Analysis 
Jin Kim Product Development
Pat Kriengsiri Flight Testing 
Catherine Matos Executive Director; Outreach
Tinoush Moulaei Life Sciences Applications
Peter Posiask Long Range Planning 
Xinyuan Tan Product Pricing
Paul Thienprayoon Flight Testing 
Chanin Tongchitpakdee Customer Engagment
Sam Wanis Research and Development
Nate Watson Long Range Planning 
Narayanan Komerath Faculty Advisor

Advisory Board
Name Position e-mail Expertise
N.M. Komerath Professor, Aerospace Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology Faculty Advisor; Testing technologies & operations
R.G. Loewy Professor and Chair, School of Aerospace Engineering Structures & Materials; Corporate Management
J. Olds Asst. Professor, Aerospace Engineering Space launch systems; Mission Design
M. Smith Asst. Professor, Aerospace Engineering Structural Mechanics, Outreach
Z.L. Wang Professor, Materials Science Electron Microscopy and Advanced Materials
Erian Armanios Professor, Aerospace Engineering Composite Manufacturing; 

Space Commercialization

Wanda Pierson-Jeter NASA Georgia Space Grant Consortium, Coordinator of Outreach Activities Getting the K-12 community involved in space related activities 
Oscar Aldana Program Coordinator, Center for Education Integrating Science, Math and Computing Science and Math Outreach to K-12
back to contents