Monday, February 15, 2016

ISU Wants an American Campus

          By Brian Orlotti

The Strasbourg, France based International Space University (ISU), founded in 1987 by X Prize Foundation founder and chairman Peter Diamandis, human space exploration advocate Todd Hawley and serial space entrepreneur Robert D. Richards, is seeking bids from American educational institutions to establish a permanent US based campus.

ISU founders Diamandis and Richards celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2012. In the beginning, at least according to Richards, "the first "I" in "ISU" was Canadian," although, as outlined in more recent reports such as the June 18th, 2012 post "Canadian Space Agency "Pulling Financial Support" for International Space University," the statement is less accurate these days. Todd Hawley, the third ISU co-founder died in 1995 from complications from AIDS. His ashes were later shot into space along with the ashes of Gene Roddenberry, Timothy Leary and 21 other founding thinkers and supporters of space exploration. Screen shot c/o ISU.

As outlined in the February 9th, 2016 press release, "ISU Seeking US partners to Compete to Host New Space Entrepreneurship Institute," the new campus location, to be called the Robert A. Heinlein Institute for Space Entrepreneurship & Space Innovation (after the acclaimed and controversial science fiction author) will offer training, conduct research and host events pertaining to the emerging global commercial space industry.

The move is a considerable broadening of the ISU's mandate that promises to bring new players and new perspectives to the space sector.

The ISU is an unaccredited educational institution that serves as a global nexus for space scientists and engineers. The ISU offers a Master of Science in Space Studies (MSS) degree as well as its flagship Space Studies Program (SSP), a multidisciplinary professional development workshop held every summer at various locations around the world. Supported by various national space agencies and other organizations from around the world, the ISU's faculty currently stands at 100 members. Over 4,000 students from over 100 countries have graduated from the ISU.

ISU 2016 poster. Graphic c/o ISU.

The rise of NewSpace companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, Bigelow Aerospace and Planet Labs highlight the evolution of space from a static government dominated sector to a growing  business-oriented one. This evolution has spurred a need for skill-sets outside of science and engineering.

A similar evolution occurred in the information technology sector. In its first decades, the computer industry comprised only a few firms and a small, narrowly focused workforce. Later, as computer technology became democratized and widespread, the computer industry grew and diversified (even subsuming other industries like telecommunications).

The more evolved information technology industry required skill-sets beyond the traditional programming and hardware design. With growth came new jobs and new career specializations like web development, network design and operations support. A new duality emerged; those who created new technologies and those who built and maintained new infrastructures that utilized them.

According to Commander William T. Riker (played by actor Jonathan Frakes, on the right) in the Star Trek: The Next Generation  episode, "The Royal," when the train comes in, "everybody rides!" Photo c/o

The Robert A. Heinlein Institute for Space Entrepreneurship & Space Innovation could become both industry incubator and training ground for the next generation of space workers. A virtuous cycle may emerge; a growing space industry acquiring a growing labour force would wield greater influence both in government and society at large. The space startups of today could grow into the Googles, Apples and Facebooks of tomorrow.

Interested US institutions have until February 29th, 2016 to submit their bids using these request for statements of interest documents.

Brian Orlotti.
The ISU will make their final selection for the Heinlein Institute in September.

Brian Orlotti is a network operations centre analyst at Shomi, a Canadian provider of on-demand internet streaming media and a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Support our Patreon Page