2014.B.2.1 Crowdfunding for Private and Public Space Exploration


David Bernat (1)

  1. Cornell NYC Tech, USA




planetary exploration, spaceflight, crowdfunding, collaboration, NASA, entrepreneur


Crowdfunding, both Kickstarter gift-driven campaigns and Kickstarter-for-equity campaigns enabled by The JOBS Act Title III, create exciting channels for launching projects while building broad support. NASA, as a federal agency, receives its funding from the annual federal budget passed by the United States Congress. NASA is crowdfunded via public tax revenues with Congressional intermediaries. From this perspective, we discuss the opportunities and challenges of well-executed fundraising for highly-technical and high-profile spaceflight projects.

We hypothesize that crowdfunding may more efficiently utilize public and organizational support to raise money for academic research and planetary exploration projects, decouple decision-makers from political ambiguity and climates, and alter the scope and intent of public outreach. In turn, we hypothesize that greater public understanding of spaceflight R&D processes, uncertainties, and timescales creates greater incentives for investors when matched with appropriate funding and recoupment mechanisms. We describe our initial efforts to illustrate and test these hypothesizes, and provide practical lessons learned for organizational leaders and entrepreneurs.

The growing availability of inexpensive satellite components creates niche opportunities that appeal to specific subsets of the public-at-large, bringing entrepreneurs and startups into the spaceflight industry. Long horizon and highly uncertainty projects traditionally challenge bottom-line-driven mindsets, and we discuss how the adoption of new investor mechanisms and incubating cooperatives can alleviate these challenges, turn long horizons into assets, and better match ventures and funding.


  • Coming soon (post workshop)

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