|Intuitive Machines' TRV (Terrestrial Return Vehicle)|
Delivery from space is a very viable business opportunity. Especially since commercial space stations, primarily from Bigelow Aerospace, are only a maximum of 5-10 years away. While NASA is taking the approach of creating a special vehicle for the task that is not the only method or business model.
A delivery company from space could begin as simply an organizer. Buying space on returning capsules for materials from other space stations. This would actually change the business dynamic of commercial launches, who's operation generally relies on only one ticket, round-trip or one way, to one customer. As traffic increases one organization can purchase the trip up but then someone else can reserve the trip down.
The reason NASA and Intuitive Machines are creating a single miniature craft for the task of delivery from orbit is schedule flexibility. Renting space on a capsule is fettered with the schedule of the capsule launch. But cargo, particularly experiments, may have expiration dates. The TRV ensures rapid delivery whenever needed. Just like Amazon, same-day delivery is the holy grail.
So what is required for a technology that drops things from orbit on command and lands them safely? This is dependent on the cargo. The TRV is a smal craft for deliverying small experiments. The small size allows for multiple craft to be delivered to the ISS in a single launch. The TRV is also outfitted with a maneuvering system. It is basically a complete small spaceship.
|TRV being launched from the ISS|
|Concept for blanket used in asteroid retrieval in space|
While all the focus as been on getting into space the need to send stuff back is growing everyday. The ISS needs to return experiments. Planetary Resources may need to land rocks. Private space stations may need to return manufactured goods. There may even be a need to send parts down to earth to be repaired and returned at the next launch of a capsule.
In order to develop an economy in space a two-way exchange between Earth and space must be set-up. Getting up there is great, but it matters little to the world unless something comes back.