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Exporting to Space! The Impact of Small Businesses on the Galaxy
July 18, 2017 Elizabeth Thomas, Business Development Specialist, Office of Small Business

The Muppet Show used to have a segment called “Pigs in Space!” (cue reverb machine). I think of it every time I read about space exploration which has been in the news quite a bit lately. According to NASA, there may be water on Jupiter and on a dwarf planet named Ceres. The Kepler mission discovered more than 1,000 planets in the “habitable zone,” the region where liquid water could exist on planetary surfaces. So I’m thinking, will we be exporting to space? Well, some companies already are.

A March 7, 2016 article by Nina Zipkin on entrepreneur.com details NASA’s selection of 137 proposals from small businesses to “help further its exploration of deep space.” “Selected projects,” the article continues, “include software that powers unmanned aircraft systems, low-cost 3-D printing technology, tools that measure and identify exoplanets and sensors that help make launch sites safer.” NASA also created the Mentor-Protégé Program that provides incentives for its large contractors to assist small businesses.

In a June 8, 2017, news release, Boeing announced that it had awarded over $200 million in contracts to small businesses for work on the International Space Station. Companies across the country will be providing various services such as engineering, IT, software development and others through 2020.

Finally, let’s think about an astronaut’s day. Astronauts eat, exercise, conduct experiments, perform maintenance and even walk in space. Small companies participate all along the supply chain for each of these activities.

In his remarks during at the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. (EXIM) 2017 Annual Conference, Scott Schloegel, EXIM acting first vice president and vice chairman, cited three small businesses that play important roles in space operations:  Industrial Shoe Company of Santa Ana, California, which provides “foot protection by the truckload” for more than 3,000 SpaceX employees; Waco Custom Meats and Seafood in Waco, Texas, an 18-employee company that serves meals to approximately 500 employees at SpaceX’s McGregor, Texas, test facility; and Fishlips Waterfront Bar and Grill of Port Canaveral, Florida, a favorite SpaceX hang out that hosts launch parties.  All three small businesses benefit from SpaceX’s launch and space activities.

When companies on earth sell to international customers, they use tools like export credit insurance to offer open credit terms, add to the company’s borrowing base and mitigate the risk of nonpayment by a foreign buyer. To do business with EXIM today, a U.S.-based company’s products must ship from a U.S. port. What might that look like in the future? A U.S.-based company’s intergalactic exports must be delivered on U.S. flagged rockets launched from U.S. sites. I like it!

So, if you find yourself gazing at the stars, looking for the International Space Station or just having a chat with the man-in-the-moon, think about future export opportunities. Perhaps EXIM will be covering your sales to companies on Mars.

To learn more about how EXIM can help gravity-bound companies today, request a consultation with your local EXIM representative. 

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