Microcosm/USC Reinventing Space Project


The Reinventing Space Project is a joint effort between Microcosm and University of Southern California (USC) aimed at near-term research, training, and workshops in methods to dramatically reduce space mission cost and schedule. It is headed by Dr. James Wertz, President of Microcosm and Adjunct Professor of Astronautics at USC, and Dr. Mike Gruntman, USC Professor of Astronautics. Near-term activities, courses, reports and several relevant professional papers are shown below. For a press release on the formation and purpose of the Reinventing Space Project, click here.

The purpose of this website is to make information available on "Reinventing Space—Dramatically Reducing Space Mission Cost." Most of the material here is drawn from background material prepared for the Spring, 2013 USC graduate course on the "Design of Low Cost Space Missions" and from related material that Microcosm has created over the last decade. We welcome comments, suggestions, and additional material which you believe is relevant to the broad topic of reinvigorating the space program at dramatically lower cost. Please send your comments and questions to Nicola Sarzi-Amade at namade@smad.com.

If we can help your organization create a proactive program to reduce mission cost, please get in touch with us. We look forward to supporting cost and schedule reduction efforts throughout the community.

Thank you for your interest in the Reinventing Space Project.

Jim Wertz, jwertz@smad.com

Mike Gruntman, mikeg@usc.edu


As with any inherently challenging technical problem, dramatically reducing cost and schedule requires hard work and good engineering, not simply a set of rules or procedures to follow. To disseminate information the existing knowledge base on this topic, on what has historically worked (and not worked) and why, and various approaches that have been proposed for future programs, the Reinventing Space Project is offering a series of seminars, professional short courses, and a for-credit graduate course, each of which is described in the flyers below. For information on holding these at your facility, or joining the USC graduate course via the Distance Education Network, contact Julie Jackson at jjackson@smad.com or 310-219-2700.




Professional Publications

These are copies of the most relevant current professional papers or, in cases where copyright material must be paid for (typically papers sold by one of the professional societies or books), a source where it can be purchased.

For a much longer list of papers on this topic see both the bibliography listed above and the Reinventing Space Conference websites, www.reinventingspace.org, and www.rispace.org.

"Reinventing Space" Space News articles and related information.

This is a series of Op-Ed articles in Space News on how to go about the process of dramatically reducing space mission cost in a much shorter schedule, while maintaining a high level of mission utility. The complete set of articles, along with references and a bibliography are available here:

Reducing Space Mission Cost Op-Ed Complete Article Series

Reference Material

Basic reference material relevant to this topic.


Microcosm, Inc.

In addition to research and support on methods for implementing much lower cost, high utility space missions, Microcosm is engaged in the development of a number of key low-cost technologies. If you would like more specific information about Microcosm’s low cost spacecraft, launch vehicles, or supporting technologies click here, or contact us at microcosm@smad.com.

University of Southern California.

The University of Southern California has one of the largest astronautics Master’s programs in the US (including enrollment via the Distance Education Network) and also engages in relevant astronautics research. For information on graduate astronautics courses (including “Space Mission Analysis and Design” and "Reinventing Space—the Design of Low-Cost Space Missions") click here. For information specifically on the MS program, click here.

The Southern California SmallSat Coalition.

The Southern California SmallSat Coalition (SCSC) is an initiative sponsored by the University of Southern California in collaboration with Microcosm, that has the purpose to bring together the diverse members of the SmallSat community in the Southern California area with the goal of getting to know each other and working together to accomplish what we cannot do individually, both technically and politically. Large programs have a natural political constituency that small programs do not have. But small programs have the potential to truly change how we do business in space to meet the needs of the end user community far more rapidly, at lower cost, and lower risk. 



Dr. Mike Gruntman

Dr. Mike Gruntman
(213) 740-5536

Mike Gruntman is a professor of Astronautics at the Viterbi School of Engineering at USC. He is currently the Director of the Master’s Program, which is among the largest in the United States in astronautics, and the founding Chairman (2004–2007) of the Astronautical Engineering Department at USC. Dr. Gruntman is a space physicist, engineer, and educator. His research interests include astronautics, space physics, space instrumentation and space sensors, spacecraft and space mission design, propulsion, spacecraft technologies, astronautical education, and history of rocketry and space technology. He has over 250 publications, including over 80 articles and 3 books. You can visit his personal page at Astronauticsnow.com.

Dr. James Wertz

Dr. James Wertz
(310) 219-2700

Jim Wertz is the President of Microcosm and an Adjunct Professor of Astronautics at USC. He holds an SB in Physics from MIT, an MS in Management of Science and Technology from GWU, and a PhD in Relativity and Cosmology from the U of Texas at Austin. He is one of the originators of the push for Reinventing Space and has been the general chairman of the Reinventing Space Conference for 10 years. Dr. Wertz holds multiple patents in spacecraft technology. He is the editor and a principal author of 5 widely used books in space technology with over 80,000 copies in print:

He is a Fellow of the AIAA and the British Interplanetary Society, and a member of the International Academy of Astronautics. He teaches courses worldwide in both "Space Mission Analysis and Design," and "Reducing Space Mission Cost."


Anthony Shao

Anthony Shao
(310) 219-2700

Anthony Shao is currently a PhD student at the University of Southern California (USC), working with his technical advisor, Dr. James R. Wertz, on the Reinventing Space Project since May 2013. His research focuses on Performance-Based Cost Modeling and how it can be used to quantify the cost reduction potential of small observation satellites. He has also been working as a systems engineer at Microcosm for over 2 years. His experience at Microcosm includes space mission engineering analysis and design, orbit and constellation design, communications and performance analyses, system trade studies, engineering modeling, and several professional publications. Anthony received his Master's degree in Astronautical Engineering in 2011 from USC, where he also worked on a currently-flying student designed CubeSat, called AENEAS, at USC’s Space Engineering Research Center at the Information Sciences Institute. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Physics and Mathematics in 2009 from Adelphi University. He initially received a grant from the California Space Grant Consortium to work on his research for the Reinventing Space Project. He hopes that his research will support a positive impact in the aerospace community, and ultimately, revolutionize the way business is done in space.

Elizabeth Koltz

Elizabeth Koltz
(310) 813-3530

Liz Koltz is currently a student at the University of Southern California in the Astronautical Engineering department. She has been working with Dr. James R. Wertz on the Reinventing Space Project since July 2013, primarily on Performance Based Cost Modeling (PBCM) for observation and communication satellites and the implications for risk, reliability and the schedule for space missions. Liz has been a Systems Engineer in Launch & Operations at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach since 2007. She completed her M.S. in Astronautical Engineering at USC in 2013, and her B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2010. By participating in the Reinventing Space Project, she hopes to provide irrefutable support of unconventional mission architectures that will guide future development of space missions.

Lunar Colony Project

Designing a Near-Term, Self-Sustaining Lunar Colony

A colony on the Moon with 1,000 people and growing. With jobs, industry, tourism and lots of things to see and do—particularly the craters Tycho and Copernicus, which can play a very special role, both for those on the Moon and for those on Earth. Would you like to help make it happen? Dr. James Wertz, the President of Microcosm and an Adjunct Professor of Astronautics at USC, has been teaching USC ASTE 523, “The Design of Low-Cost Space Missions,” for over 15 years. Of course, “low cost” and a “1,000 people living on the Moon” don’t show up in the same sentence very often, particularly when the Apollo program to put 2 people on the Moon for a few days cost over $200 billion in today’s dollars and there isn’t a lot of surplus money in today’s federal budget. Nonetheless, it may indeed be possible in the near term. Dr. Wertz has worked for many years on ways to create a truly low-cost lunar colony and recently, Dr. Charles Polk, the head of the Martian Trust in Seattle, WA, has identified a way to potentially fund large ventures for Moon and Mars exploration. Also, NASA has started a RASC-AL competition for university student teams for the 2014&endash;15 academic year for creating an independent architecture for living on the Moon or Mars within the current constraints of a flat NASA budget. Can it be done? Dr. Wertz believes that it can. He explains how it could happen and how USC students could play a key role in making it happen. Click here for a seminar given by Dr. Wertz. You don’t have to be an engineer to take part. All academic disciplines are welcome.

RASC-AL Competition

Given a 20 year timespan starting in 2014, and a flat total NASA budget of $16 Billion a year, derive an architecture that has 8 people continuously living on the surface of the Moon. The pioneers on the Moon are totally self-sufficient at year 20, except a yearly crew rotation (4 up and 4 down) sent from Earth along with 10t of logistics. The architecture will convey a series of missions (campaign) over the 20 year period that shows the gradual build-up of capabilities, infrastructure and risk reduction. All existing NASA programs will continue with some reduction in annual funding allowed (maintain at least 80% of their current budget) but the total NASA budget will remain flat, adjusting for inflation. Two exceptions are:

After these points in time, the programs budgets’ can be reduced by any level and applied towards other areas of human exploration. The lunar surface and asteroids can be leveraged for In-situ Resource Utilization (ISRU), and all systems must be reusable wherever practical. All systems required to enable this architecture must be accounted for with respect to the budget. This includes development of new technologies and infrastructure necessary to enable ISRU, and transportation of those ISRU assets. The campaign should be structured so that there is a cadence of significant human activities and missions beyond low Earth Orbit.

Click here to visit their website for more information on the design competition. For important dates and deadlines, click here.

The Team

The USC student team consists of over 50 students spanning many fields such as architecture, economics, clinical pharmacy, cinematic arts, and various field of engineering including astronautics, electrical, civil, chemical, and product development. The team is led by Dr. Wertz. If you are interested in getting involved with this project, please get in contact with Anthony Shao at ashao@smad.com.