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2015 ASAP Summit Keynoter Dale Ketcham (Part 1): Private Sector Competition and Cross-Sector Collaboration Ignite the 21st Century Space Race

Posted By John W. DeWitt, Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Just before my ASAP Media colleague Michelle Duga and I landed in Orlando Sunday night to attend the March 2-5, 2015 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, our JetBlue pilot directed those of us seated on the left (east-facing) side of the plane to watch carefully—a rocket was about to take off from Cape Canaveral. Sure enough, within 30 seconds, what looked like a red-orange rose from the ground thousands of feet below, climbed in a fiery arc, and disappeared in the upper atmosphere. It was a nice harbinger of this morning’s keynote talk by Dale Ketcham—a second-generation veteran of the space industry that has sparked my imagination since I was a preschooler watching a small black-and-white screen as capsules orbited and astronauts bounded across the moon. 

Today’s space industry is very different—far more competitive and collaborative—than the government-led race into space that many of us grew up watching. That’s a very good evolution, according the feisty chief of strategic alliances for Space Florida, the tiny 30-person state agency that routinely tangles with giant and powerful players as it seeks to sustain and grow Florida’s historic role at the world’s foremost “port authority” for travel into space.

“Putting a man on the moon is the single greatest human accomplishment, at least in our world,” Ketcham explained. “But it created a template by which all future programs are judged—and that’s a terrible template.” Essentially, NASA got a blank check to defeat the Soviet Union in the space race—and it paid off, he said, but the effort was driven from the top down. That’s one reason it was so easy, once the public lost interest, for U.S. President Richard Nixon to kill the Apollo program in the 1970s, he added.

By the 1980s, the space shuttle program revived the space industry—and very importantly, when Canada began to contribute its technology for robotic space arms, it started a trend toward collaboration and away from a top-down, command-and-control industry. This collaborative trend has grown gradually but surely in the years since, first among governments, and then increasingly in the private sector. NASA prodded two of its giant private sector contractors—Lockheed Martin and Boeing—to work together on the shuttle. By 1996—in part, to ensure unemployed former Soviet scientists didn’t build rockets for rogue nations—NASA joined forces with former competitors in Russia for the international space station, now involving Japan, Brazil, and many European countries.

Necessity has been the driving force of this growing trend of space collaboration. Simply put, “we can’t do it without each other,” Ketcham said. Even today, despite the tremendous strain on U.S.-Russian relations, “the last part of our relationship that would break is in space,” he said. “We are going to be a space-faring species, so it’s important to know how to cooperate internationally.” 

Tags:  2015 ASAP Global Alliance Summit  Cape Canaveral  Dale Ketcham  Lockheed Martin  NASA  space industry 

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"The Sky is Not the Limit" When Partnering to Grow the Space Industry, says ASAP Global Summit’s Opening Keynote Speaker

Posted By Cynthia Hanson, Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs and technical geniuses are turning their attention to the commercial space business. They believe that with the infusion of entrepreneurial capital, brainpower, and a good degree of partnering, the space industry can become a fundamental source of jobs and high-tech development. As a state government entity, Space Florida is eagerly trying to position Florida in this new space race. Dale Ketcham, chief of strategic alliances for Space Florida, is ASAP’s opening keynote speaker at the upcoming ASAP Global Alliance Summit, March 2-5, in Orlando, Florida. For Ketcham, “the sky is not the limit” as the traditional government-only space program transitions to a multi-faceted, cross-industry collaboration with avant-guard billionaires and space entrepreneurs, cutting-edge university R&D programs, an IT industry evolving at high speed, well-established corporations, US federal agencies, and global allies. He plans to provide a broad perspective on how partnerships and collaborations have evolved and morphed in the space industry, and what we can envision for the future.

What is the mandate of Space Florida as a government entity receiving state funding?

From the inception of the space age, government investment was the seed corn needed to start and grow the space industry, much as was the case in the early years of railroad and aviation development. But there has always been an understanding that a robust commercial sector would be needed for long-term sustainability. That perception is now becoming reality. Perhaps nothing highlights that perception moreso than the commercial payload launch market. For decades the United States had 100 percent of the market. But the launch sites were at NASA or Air Force locations. The Europeans saw an opportunity, created a purely commercial launch site in South America, and the US market share eventually evaporated. New American entrepreneurs are beginning to recapture that market, and the impetus for the creation of Space Florida in 2006 was to build the nation’s growing space industry market and capitalize on the half-a-billion in capital assets Florida already had invested in launch pads, labs, etc., from two decades of collaboration with government and industry.

How did you get involved in Space Florida? What is your history in the space program?

I grew up in Cocoa Beach starting in 1955. I learned to walk as a toddler on the beach. It was a frontier town in the early days of the space program, and I was surrounded by astronauts and engineers. There was a lot of money coming into the area to beat the Russians to the moon. I went on to attend the University of Florida. At the time I wasn’t aware of the implications, but President Nixon abruptly cancelled the Apollo space program, which crushed us economically down here. My dad was trying to avoid bankruptcy. Thousands of homes were abandoned. Ironically, when my older son left to attend the University of Florida, the shuttle program retired. So part of my mission in life has been to make sure that when my grandson or granddaughter goes on to the University of Florida, we are no longer dependent on government funding to provide jobs in Florida’s space industry. I spent 10 years working on the shuttle program for Rockwell, and then I was a district director for a local congressman while he served in Washington on the space subcommittee. I also worked for an engineering firm that was working on the shuttle and then became director of the space program at Enterprise Florida - a public-private entity that was previously the state Department of Commerce. I then was director of the Spaceport Research and Technology Institute at the University of Central Florida. I joined Space Florida four years ago.

Look for the full interview in ASAP’s February eNews, a benefit of membership to ASAP.

Tags:  ASAP Global Alliance Summit  Dale Ketcham  NASA  Space Florida 

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