Twyman Clements, CEO of Louisville-based Space Tango, is a pioneer in the "space-as-a-service" industry. The company designs and launches miniature, autonomously operating R&D labs for clients in industry and academia who want access to a zero-gravity environment.
In 2016 and 2017, Space Tango installed two microwave-oven-sized Tango Labs aboard the International Space Station, each capable of containing up to 21 independent cube labs running independent experiments and streaming data back to Earth. It launched 30 tests for clients in 2017, its first year of commercial operation, and will send another 30 in the first part of 2018. Early customers include Budweiser, which is experimenting with growing barley in space, and companies prototyping space-based production of fiber-optic cable, semiconductors, retinal implants, and drug ingredients.
Clements is keen to prove the value of space as a platform for Earth-based businesses before the planned privatization of the ISS in 2025. “Research is a constant source of revenue," says Clements, who says the company is currently profitable from operations. "But we’ll really be successful when we can take raw materials up, add value, and bring a new product back.”