Bechtel’s support of the space industry began with the Gemini and Apollo programs of the mid-20th century and continues today with Mobile Launcher 2 and the development of off-world infrastructure.
“[Bechtel] has been focused on frontiers for a long time,” Mike Costas, general manager of Bechtel’s Defense and Space business, said. “Now, we’re thinking through what the next frontier looks like, and that’s in space.”
Mike is leading the company’s space mission, and he recently spoke with ASCEND resident futurists, Devin Liddell of Teague and Kara Cunzeman of The Aerospace Corporation, about the infrastructure needed to drive the new space economy.
To Mike, intriguing opportunities enable off-world human missions. In other words, to sustain life on the planets, we will need to create a safe environment with breathable air, water, mining of natural resources, and power to enable a growing space economy. Infrastructure will take on a different form, he said, such as small modular nuclear reactors that will power grids necessary for colonization. In advance, though, to successfully develop the necessary infrastructure, it will take master planning with the commercial space community and the government. This capability and our approach to managing risk will position Bechtel for emergent evolutionary space delivery models.
Mike’s vision for infrastructure in space is clear, but he has concerns about the industry’s prioritizations. While commercial space companies have been successful in optimizing their financial resources to build transportation systems, elsewhere, funding has lagged. To assess priorities, the industry needs to come together and develop the necessary capabilities on Earth, test them in a safe environment, then commit resources to new missions.
As the space industry continues to advance, the infrastructure needed will only become more complex and require cooperation from a large and diverse supply chain. In its commitment to accelerate progress, Bechtel is taking the steps to look at how future missions will be planned and executed. Whether the infrastructure is on Earth, in low-Earth orbit, on the moon, or on asteroids or Mars, it will require planning, management of complex megaprojects, first-of-a-kind technologies, detailed design and engineering, and construction in remote or harsh environments.
ASCEND is a global community focused on building humanity’s off-world future faster. Mike is a member of its 2021 Guiding Coalition.
Watch Mike Costas discuss the future of off-world infrastructure.