Life is full of lessons. Every step we take or every encounter we face in the day brings a new lesson our way. In the recent Commercial Space Transportation Conference held in Washington DC, the main topic that was mentioned over and over was the “public private partnership”. This phrase was highly mentioned in most of the speeches released in this conference.
The Public Private Partnership is in other words known as P3s and it is an alliance between a private enterprise and a government entity accomplishing a common purpose. This is a partnership that has been fairly, effectively and extensively used for funding P3s and space activities. The Public Private Partnership is attracting more attention by day as public financing sources grow scarce. The fact that P3s will play a major role in space activities to be witnessed in future is inevitable.
For that reason, it high time the lessons learned and best practices from decades with terrestrial infrastructure and experiences of P3 projects were examined and evaluated. This will tell how best one can adapt them and their importance to main space projects going forward. This includes projects with international participation.
Examples of space activities featured by P3s included the funded activities of NASA’s Space Act Agreements for both Commercial Crew Program and Commercial Orbital Transportation Services. They also support the U.S. Air Force and DARPA use of OTA which is also known as Other Transaction Authority for programs which include: RSGS also known as Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites.
The P3s agreements facilitates the private and public financing combination, promotes speed and innovation and at the same time escaping the burden of Federal Acquisition Regulations to secure new capabilities. They have at the same time assisted Orbital ATK, NanoRacks, SpaceX among many other companies that have achieved success. At the local and the state level, P3 has been used for different space launch infrastructure projects which include; New Mexico’s Spaceport America and the Virginia’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.
The Private Public Partnership for space projects has however, generally been simple agreements involving a private entity and a public entity. Future main space activities will require far more intricate international participation and contractual arrangements. The best international participation is exemplified by the ISS. The ISS program has an intensified legal structure which is based on intergovernmental agreement that is signed by the government partners.