Tech Briefs Magazine Interviews Motiv Space Systems’ Tom McCarthy
Since the middle of the 20th century, governments have played the primary role in space exploration. However, over the past 20 years, a transition from government to private spaceflight has been gradually developing, and commercialization advocates say that the shift will continue as government space agencies seek to partner more with private enterprises to advance space exploration technology.
One of those advocates is Motiv Space Systems’ VP of Business Development, Tom McCarthy, who was quoted in the August 2022 edition of Tech Briefs as saying that “private contributions to the space arena have had quite an explosive and expansive impact.” As Motiv continues to be awarded contracts to support NASA missions to Mars, the Moon, and low Earth orbit (LEO), Tom is in a position to speak of the success the private-government partnership continues to demonstrate.
He continues his discussion with Tech Briefs by saying that “[t]here is huge involvement from the private sector that’s been very beneficial. That coupled with the continued government interest and foundation funding has really allowed the American presence to maintain in space.” That government interest in partnering with private industry he speaks of has been a part of NASA’s plans for years, and includes private capsules and launch platforms, as well as commercial technology development for LEO-based servicing and construction.
“Being able to build and manufacture in space, those emerging technologies are becoming real. And because of that, there is a huge push in this area to really start feeding all those technologies, because they have matured very, very quickly,” Tom tells Tech Briefs, referring to Motiv’s role in the OSAM-2 mission to demonstrate technology that will allow satellites to be serviced in space, further extending their operational lifespan and helping to reduce the number of satellites that are non-operational and posing a threat to new spacecraft.
As NASA and other space agencies around the world continue to expand partnerships with private industry, Tom sees those partnerships creating “classical NASA-type missions, robotic missions, as well as commercial space station applications.” Motiv is working to reduce the cost of space-based robotics platforms for LEO missions and to enable human exploration of the Moon and, eventually, Mars through its robotics and control systems engineering.
Partnering with companies like Motiv Space Systems provides NASA with access to new technologies and engineering capabilities. These capabilities, in-turn, enable NASA to develop new missions. Those missions, which include access to and use of the ISS, the Artemis Program, and future missions to Mars, are being realized in ways that have revolutionized the space industry. And the extent of what those missions will accomplish is only just now beginning to become clear.
The initial development of space technology was something only a government could afford to do. But thanks, in part, to the technologies developed in the second half of the 20th century, private companies have been able to advance space technology further than government agencies could, and at a lower cost. The transition from government-based space exploration to government-backed private space exploration is still playing out, but all signs point to a bright future for companies like Motiv, which means a bright future for human space exploration and use of space-based technology platforms.