SpaceNewsThis week SpaceNews signed on as our media partner for the next round of the “Commercial Space Executive Leadership” course developed in partnership with the AIAA. I don’t like hyperbole or excessive hype, even when I talk about work we’re doing at HeatSpring, so I’d like to share the history of this program and explain why this course is legitimately big, important, and potentially transformative for everyone involved.

The Origins of Our Commercial Space Course

In 2013 we noticed a steady flow of students in our renewable energy courses with connections to commercial space. The space industry faces many of the same challenges and opportunities we’ve seen in energy, and the need for technical training programs that go beyond traditional seminars exists. This was really just an excuse to pursue a program that sounded fun and interesting – who doesn’t love space?

Dan Rasky and Bruce Pittman had been running a workshop through SpacePortal to accelerate the learning curve for new commercial space teams. They provide access and insight into working with NASA and de-risk the startup process for smart entrepreneurs. We set out to take this program to a wider audience online. AIAA saw the value of the program and extended CEUs for members who completed the course.

You can get a taste for Bruce’s approach in his free lecture: How to Succeed in the Emerging NewSpace Industry.

Dan and Bruce were pulled from the program by NASA, who saw their involvement with helping companies and entrepreneurs as a potential conflict of interest. They identified Charles Miller, co-founder of NanoRacks and their former colleague at NASA, as the ideal replacement. Charles signed on and has been teaching the first cohort of students through the early weeks of 2015.

It Turns Out, The Course is Better Than We Thought

By providing very specific insights into how successful commercial space companies have gotten started, we knew the course could be a critical stepping stone for folks in and around the industry. Shaving years off the learning curve can be the difference between starting that company, making that sale, or getting that job. In retrospect this goal looks modest, because the student participation has taken the discourse to an even higher level, and Charles has built a course that goes way beyond our initial concept.

Here’s an example of the way Charles dives deeply into very specific topics, providing historical context and looking at opportunities through an entrepreneurial lens. It’s a discussion of the very niche topic of Landsat, which not everyone in the course is pursuing, but invaluable for those who are:

SpaceNews Will Turbocharge the Evolution and Impact of the Course

SpaceNews has been described as “the Wall Street Journal of Commercial Space”. By bringing tremendous energy and resources to the commercial space course, Bill Klanke and his colleagues open the door to a wider audience, and take a major burden off of Charles and HeatSpring folks. Now we can focus on the continuous evolution and improvement of the course. Deeper content, more experiential learning, and strengthening student networks.

We have a series of complementary technical courses in development. The finance, business, and technical approaches to commercial space are deeply intertwined and we already see the need to disseminate technical know-how more quickly and comprehensively.

I look forward to sharing what the students do after completing the program. That’s the most important metric we can use to measure the effectiveness of what we’re doing. From what I’ve seen so far, the results will be impressive.