The space industry has evolved from a governmental structure to a public-private cooperative structure. The newest generation of pioneers of the industry are in the midst of redesigning the frontiers of space. With forward leaning leaders looking towards interplanetary civilization, space designers are actively building the technologies, tools, and human experiences that will sustain us in extreme environments like space.

Space design is inspiring creativity and helping us think differently about ourselves and our future. Whether we are talking about how we will communicate earth from space to how we use bio-sensing wearable innovations to make human life more comfortable in space we are tracking the emergence of space settlements, architecture, fashion, health, mobility and transportation.

As private industry (e.g. Blue Origin, Leo Labs, Virgin Galactic, SpaceX) has entered the new space race, commercial launch businesses are facing increasing competition from universities and upstarts.

Fashion Fwd Performance:

Reinventing How Humans Perform In Space is no small feat. The space suit is the smallest pressurized spacecraft. Dava Newman, has dared to reinvent this 40 year old in to a bio-sensory suit that improves mobility and safety for our journey to the moon and mars.

Dava Newman: Space-wear designer & aeronautical/astronautical engineer.

Designing for space is pervasive across cultures, from fashion and entertainment to advertising and design. Even the perceived sound of space, or sonic space, is an extrasensory ingredient that can add to a design or experience. Designing products for use in severe environments, such as space, opens up a new framework for innovating designs that ease our lives on Earth.

Like Newman, smart clothing manufacturer Hexoskin has worked with astronauts to design medical monitoring systems for Lunar and Martian missions. The handheld ultrasound Butterfly iQ was sent to the International Space Station (ISS) to help monitor and assess astronauts’ health. 

VisualDX has developed an ML algorithm trained on clinical data that helps non-healthcare pros to diagnose conditions, illness and disease. After taking a picture of their issue and answering some questions, the software guides users to reach a diagnosis; even if no physician is available. VisualDX is working on an offline mode for its app.

Working with NASA, 1Drop Diagnostics, developed a portable device capable of performing point-of-care blood analyses. The smaller, space travel-friendly version can measure a range of biomarkers to determine cardiovascular function, kidney and liver function from a small blood sample.

According to Empatica, the EmbracePlus is the first Mars ready wearable. It is a low-power smartwatch that can continuously monitor a range of parameters such as electrodermal activity, heart rate or oxygen saturation. It also uses an A.I. to support the user to interpret readings. Empatica has also developed an on-wrist charger to enable non-stop health monitoring.

Orchestrating change at the scale of the cosmos

As we overpopulate urban centers and the planet we are becoming conscious of dwindling resources and our susceptibility to radical weather patterns. Design in the new space era is unleashing a symbiotic relationship between space and Earth, as seen by the explosive growth of university investments, events and the significant increase of private sector investments in the field.

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Upstarts like LeoLabs have developed proprietary radars to track objects in Lower Earth Orbit, the area 62 to 1,200 miles above Earth’s surface where some 2,000 active satellites operate—up from 400 just a few years ago (and with 50,000 more planned for launch in the next few years). In 2020, the company introduced its Collision Avoidance Service, a subscription that alerts customers when their satellites are on course for a crash.

Canadian start up, GHGSat uses its own satellites to measure greenhouse gases from outer space, using spectroscopic sensing to detect even small leaks from oil and gas and other industrial emitters anywhere on Earth.

Orbital Insight, a geospatial data company, combines cell phone geolocation with images obtained from satellites, drones, and balloons to give businesses an earthly view of a range of human activity. In an effort to use this tech for good, it partnered with Unilever to monitor its sustainable palm-oil supply chain in Southeast Asia, using cellphone data from delivery trucks to track how raw materials get from farm to refinery, to make sure suppliers are not contributing to deforestation of virgin rainforest for new plantations.

Rocket Lab is scaling small payload launch services. Rocket Lab has launched 96 small satellites into space aboard its Electron rockets. Last year it began offering a comprehensive commercial service that designs, builds, launches, and operates satellites as a bundled service.

Slingshot Aerospace has taken game simulation to “situational intelligence,” helping companies in rapidly make sense of reams of data collected by radar and other observation tech aboard satellites, airplanes, and drones. Slingshot was recently contracted to create a VR space simulator to for training.

Small-launch vehicle startup Relativity Space is scaling up production of its 3D-printed Terran 1 rocket. The company reported successful pressure tests of its 3D-printed fuel tanks and a test firing of its Aeon 1 rocket engine.

 

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The space industry has evolved from a governmental structure to a public-private cooperative structures that are innovating at light speed. By Joanna Peña-Bickley @jojobickley via @jpenabickley