Uplift Aerospace’s NFTs come with a trip to space
Uplift Aerospace, a Park City-based company founded in 2019, is launching an NFT project called Space+. As the company puts it, Space+ is “the world’s first NFT project to provide greater access for private citizens to participate in the space economy.” It will also include future missions to space for some people involved, and there’s talk about a “community-supported lunar mission” coming within the next few years.
The NFTs—which will serve as a membership token—will launch this spring, though many of the details like the official launch date, total number of NFTs, and floor price have yet to be announced. Josh Hanes, the CEO of Uplift Aerospace, says the group is trying to build community and support for the project. Then, they’ll “cater what we do to those people that are supporting us so that they are the ones that receive the greatest benefit from what we’re doing.”
Hanes says the purpose and mission of Space+ is to “give greater access to space to the average person.” That will include an ever-expanding list of products and experiences related to space exploration, manufacturing, and commerce. “We’re focused on making sure that the community that we do have benefits from this project,” he says.
Hanes knows he can’t send everyone who buys a membership token to space, but he hopes Uplift Aerospace can provide utility to everyone involved. “The cost to access space is decreasing,” he says. “It’s still really expensive—obviously, we can’t offer a spaceflight to every single person—but we can offer it to some, which is amazing in itself.
“But there are certain aspects, when it comes to what we are doing as a company, that we are going to try to give everybody access to—like items that have flown on the Space Station or flown in space. And then our lunar mission…different aspects of that project, we’ll be able to incorporate for a much broader group of people and not just a few.”
Do we need to develop commerce in space?
In early January, Uplift Aerospace announced that the company signed a contract with NASA to launch what it calls a “Constellation Vault” to the International Space Station this year. It will deploy in 2022, with plans to expand to additional space stations throughout the decade, according to a January 4th press release. “The vault will initially serve as an exhibit platform for Earth’s most prized jewelry and artwork,” the press release claims, with rare coins, “investment quality stones,” fine jewelry, rare artwork, and more. These collectibles will be made available to purchasers in the future.
“We’re in the beginning of a space economy,” Hanes says. “Our focus as a company is on creating commerce centers in space, initially, and giving access. A lot of people don’t understand that within the next few years, unique markets are going to be evolving with regards to manufacturing, energy, infrastructure, soft goods…and those are all different types of commerce activities within the economy.
“What’s being created right now is a space economy,” he says. “NASA is one of the biggest builders behind what we call the low-Earth orbit economy. One of their main directives is to foster and create commerce in low-Earth orbit. They are supporting a lot of private industries who are helping facilitate that, so I’d say Uplift Aerospace is unique in the fact that we’re innovating around applications of web3 for commerce in space. We’re also creating these commerce centers focused on artwork and high-value brands and creators. So this year on the International Space Station, we’ll have our Constellation Vault, which will be an exhibition platform for these really incredible items, brands, and artists.”
On January 19th, Uplift also announced that it is one of over 30 companies to sign agreements for the private Orbital Reef Space Station, a self-described future “premier mixed-use space station in low-Earth orbit for commerce, research, and tourism.”
Major participants in the space station, which is slated for “the second half of this decade,” include Jeff Bezos’ company Blue Origin, Sierra Space, Boeing, Genesis Engineering Solutions, Redwire Space, and Arizona State University. It’s just one of several planned private space stations—a prime example of the private access to space that’s poised to emerge this decade.
“We live in an extraordinary time. We are actual witnesses of an age when a joint international effort to decrease the cost to access space is laying the foundation for a new economy: a space economy,” Hanes said at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on January 6th.
“In-space manufacturing, infrastructure, and trade are not only being envisioned by the creative minds that drive history, but organizations are currently developing projects for near-term implementation and use,” he continued. “Uplift is one of these. It is on the cutting edge of creating actual commerce between Earth and space in parallel efforts with government space agencies and private enterprises such as NASA, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Virgin Galactic.”
Hanes has long held this vision. He started at the University of Utah in 2011, where he would earn his degree in physics and serve as president of the Students for Space Entrepreneurship and Technology club. “I’ve always followed aerospace very closely and, in 2017, started seeing a lot of technologies that have been in development for the last few decades come to market. And at that time, I decided to pull the trigger on the research I had done around commerce in space,” he says. “That was the beginning of Uplift Aerospace.”
In 2019, NASA began making announcements about its “vision for low-Earth orbit (LEO) economy.” In June 2019, it released an official plan for commercial low-Earth orbit development. According to NASA, low-Earth orbit includes Earth-centered orbits at altitudes of 1,200 miles or less. That’s where the International Space Station is, and it is an area close enough to Earth to make “transportation, communication, observation, and resupply” more convenient.
“NASA is opening the International Space Station for commercial business, unleashing US industry on the path to a commercial economy in low-Earth orbit,” the plan reads. “NASA will partner with industry to achieve this commercial economy as the agency moves full speed ahead toward its goal of landing the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024. Commercial economies will play an essential role in establishing a sustainable presence in low-Earth orbit as well as on and around the moon, working with NASA to rest technologies, train astronauts and strengthen the burgeoning space economy.”
NASA’s long-term plan includes turning low-Earth orbit operations over to the private sector.
“NASA by its very nature is an exploration agency. We like to challenge the status quo and discover new things. We like to solve impossible problems and do amazing things,” the 2019 plan reads. “NASA also realizes that we need help and do not know everything. We can only accomplish amazing things by teamwork. NASA is reaching out to the US private sector to see if they can push the economic frontier into space.”
Should we pollute space instead of Earth?
Since the first people made their way to space 61 years ago, space travel has been primarily reserved for government astronauts. In America’s case, those astronauts are employed by NASA. But in recent years, space travel has begun to drift more to the private side, with more people—albeit wealthy, well-connected people—beginning to see opportunities to head to space.
NASA and the Departments of State and Commerce have four national goals for LEO spaceflight, one of which is achieving “a continuous US presence in LEO—both with government astronauts and private citizens—in order to support the utilization of space by US citizens, companies, academia, and international partners.”
Those opportunities for private citizens have begun to make some headlines. In 2021, four people paid a $55 million ticket price for an upcoming eight-day stay on the International Space Station, which the Washington Post reported was the “first would-be spaceflight crew comprised entirely of private citizens in a mission to the station.” That flight was targeted for February 28th, 2022. Then in July 2021, billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos headed to space on a launch from his company, Blue Origin, a trip that made news across the world.
The barriers to space are dropping, and many are coming to terms with what’s possible beyond our atmosphere. Bezos even suggested moving polluting industries to space in order to preserve the environment on earth. “That’s going to take decades and decades to achieve, but big things start with small steps,” he told NBC News after his trip.
“We’ve already had some game-changing technologies come to market, like reusable rockets that can launch and land vertically viably. And now that kind of model is scaling up, and as we scale up, that’s going to be another sort of game-changer that allows greater and greater access to space,” Hanes says. “So it’s going to be, I think, astonishing to people who don’t follow aerospace and space exploration technologies, the changes that we see in the next five to 10 years.”
What role do NFTs play?
Uplift Aerospace hopes to remove barriers for space involvement with Space+ NFTs and bring space access to average people. “That’s one thing that’s wonderful about the NFT community in general—they’ve been able to give greater access to experiences or to networks,” Hanes says. “For Uplift Aerospace, we’re using it as a membership token so that people can get access to spaceflights…
“Our ultimate goal is to do a community-supported lunar mission as part of what we’re doing as a company with Uplift Aerospace, where we’re already building out the technologies to do a lunar mission within the next few years.”
For Space+, the NFTs are just a membership token, and the blockchain is just a useful transaction-tracking technology. “I think that the simplified version is saying that blockchain technology allows us to easily trace transactions and ownership, and do it securely,” Hanes says. “From a use standpoint, I think it’s a high-value technology. And that’s how we’re looking at it.
“We’re not doing this because of the hype. We’re doing it because of the use case, and I think for those people who are skeptical, they’re going to see more and more companies finding valuable use cases within their industries.”