Science fiction is becoming reality

Science fiction is becoming reality as CEOs in the space race attempt to conquer the commercial aerospace industry. But take a look beyond the space superstars, and you’ll find a whole industry of technology that’s been firmly in place for decades and still growing at a rapid rate.

TRANSCRIPT

SCIENCE FICTION IS BECOMING REALITY, AS C.E.O.s IN THE BILLIONAIRE SPACE RACE ATTEMPT TO CONQUER THE COMMERCIAL AEROSPACE INDUSTRY.

BUT TAKE A LOOK BEYOND THE SPACE SUPERSTARS, AND YOU'LL FIND A WHOLE INDUSTRY OF TECHNOLOGY THAT'S BEEN FIRMLY IN PLACE FOR DECADES AND STILL GROWING AT A RAPID RATE.

JEFF BEZOS, PAUL ALLEN, ELON MUSK.

THESE BILLIONAIRE MOGULS ALL HAVE BIG DREAMS OF REVAMPING THE SPACE INDUSTRY.

AMAZON'S JEFF BEZOS OWNS BLUE ORIGIN SPACE COMPANY AND PLANS TO LAUNCH ROCKETS INTO ORBIT BY THE END OF THE DECADE.

STRATOLAUNCH SYSTEMS, A SPACE AIR-LAUNCH COMPANY, IS BACKED BY PAUL ALLEN.

AND ELON MUSK, WITH SpaceX, HAS SET HIS SIGHTS ON COLONIZING MARS BY 2026.

BUT BEYOND THE GLITTER OF THE BILLIONAIRE SPACE RACE, THERE'S A WHOLE INDUSTRY OF SMALLER SPACE COMPANIES THAT HAVE BEEN QUIETLY WORKING UNDER THE RADAR FOR DECADES.

WE HERE AT TETHERS UNLIMITED -- YOU KNOW, A LOT OF US ARE REAL SCIENCE-FICTION FANS, AND WHAT WE LIKE TO DO IS KIND OF TAKE THE IDEAS THAT ARE IN THE SCIENCE-FICTION DOMAIN AND FIGURE OUT HOW TO DRAG THEM INTO THE DOMAIN OF SCIENCE-REALITY.

TETHERS UNLIMITED, IN BOTHELL, WASHINGTON, HAS BEEN CREATING AND MANUFACTURING SPACE-RELATED EQUIPMENT FOR OVER TWO DECADES.

RIGHT NOW, WE'RE WORKING WITH NASA TO DEVELOP THIS RECYCLING SYSTEM FOR THE SPACE STATION.

ASTRONAUTS WILL BE ABLE TO TAKE THE PLASTIC WASTE THAT'S ON THE SPACE STATION.

THEY CAN PUT THE PLASTIC WASTE INTO THIS HOPPER HERE, AND THEN THE MACHINE WILL MELT IT DOWN AND EXTRUDE IT TO MAKE VERY HIGH-QUALITY FILAMENT FOR THE 3-D PRINTERS THAT ARE ON THE SPACE STATION.

THOSE 3-D PRINTERS CAN THEN GO ON TO BUILD NEW PIECES OF EQUIPMENT IN SPACE.

TETHERS' IN-SPACE-MANUFACTURING TECHNOLOGY HELPS SAVE WASTE AND SAVES MONEY.

WELL, ON A TYPICAL CARGO RESUPPLY MISSION TO THE SPACE STATION, THERE IS SOMETHING LIKE 25 POUNDS OF PLASTIC WASTE THAT'S SENT UP.

NORMALLY, THEY WOULD HAVE TO STUFF THAT IN A RETURN VEHICLE AND BURN IT UP IN THE ATMOSPHERE TO GET RID OF IT.

BUT THAT MASS ON ORBIT IS WORTH ABOUT $10,000 PER POUND, SO THAT'S ALMOST A QUARTER-MILLION DOLLARS WORTH OF JUST RAW MATERIAL THAT WE CAN RECYCLE INTO FEEDSTOCK FOR BUILDING NEW SPACE SYSTEMS.

IF WE LOOK AT 3-D OR ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING, 10 YEARS AGO, 20 YEARS AGO, THAT WAS ALL SCI-FI STUFF.

BOB UPTAGRAFFT, FROM THE NORTHWEST AEROSPACE ALLIANCE, SAYS LIGHT-SPEED ADVANCEMENTS IN 3-D TECHNOLOGY AND IN-SPACE MANUFACTURING HAVE MADE SOME CITIES, LIKE SEATTLE, A PERFECT SPACE HUB.

THE SEEDS WERE PLANTED YEARS AGO BY THE SUCCESS OF AEROSPACE.

IF WE LOOK AT LOCAL COMPANIES, LIKE ROCKETDYNE AS AN EXAMPLE, THEY HAVE, FOR THE LAST 30 YEARS, BEEN PRODUCING BOOSTER-JET ROCKETS THAT DRIVE SATELLITES THROUGH SPACE.

AEROJET ROCKETDYNE WAS THE FIRST SPACE COMPANY TO SET UP SHOP IN WASHINGTON STATE.

THEY RECENTLY PLAYED A KEY ROLE IN THE HISTORIC FLY-BY OF PLUTO WITH NASA's NEW HORIZONS SPACECRAFT.

WE HAD 16 ROCKETS, 16 DIFFERENT THRUSTER ENGINES.

IT LOOKS LIKE A BABY GRAND PIANO THAT'S MOUNTED IN AS PART OF THE SPACECRAFT APERTURE.

THE SATELLITE ITSELF IS POWERED BY 100% PURE AEROJET ROCKETDYNE REDMOND POWER.

ALONGSIDE THE VETERANS, THERE ARE A NUMBER OF NEW PLAYERS IN THE SPACE INDUSTRY.

MADE IN SPACE IS A CALIFORNIA COMPANY THAT LAUNCHED THE FIRST ZERO-GRAVITY 3-D PRINTER INTO SPACE LAST YEAR.

PLANETARY RESOURCES IS AN ASTEROID-MINING COMPANY FORMED IN 2010.

AND SPACEFLIGHT INDUSTRIES FOCUSES ON SMALL SATELLITE LAUNCHES.

THE REVOLUTION IN THE COMMERCIAL SPACE INDUSTRY IS ALSO ATTRACTING SPACE-RELATED TALENT.

DR. RACHEL MUHLBAUER MOVED FROM GEORGIA TO WORK AT TETHERS UNLIMITED.

SO, IT'S NOT JUST NASA ANYMORE.

THERE'S TETHERS.

WE'VE GOT SpaceX.

THERE'S ORBITAL.

THERE'S JUST SO MANY CHOICES AT THIS POINT.

IT'S JUST BEEN A BOOM FOR THE SPACE INDUSTRY.

WITH NO END TO THIS GROWTH IN SIGHT, IT SEEMS LIKE THE POSSIBILITIES FOR COMMERCIAL SPACE TECHNOLOGY ARE INFINITE.

WE'RE A VERY PROUD SPACE COMMUNITY THAT'S AT THE BEGINNING OF THE FOREFRONT, RIGHT?

SPACE IS BIG AND VAST, AND THERE'S PLENTY OF ROOM FOR US ALL TO MANEUVER.

AND IT'S REALLY A FUNCTION OF HOW WE WORK TOGETHER WITH THE SAME COMMON CAUSE, WHICH IS EXPLORATION.