Student Post – Commercial Space Tourism GKL


By Katie Littlefield (Lauder/WG ’14 and member of Lauder’s Chinese program)

Hi everyone! To share a little about Global Knowledge Lab, the GKL is a team-based capstone research project for the Lauder MA International Studies degree. Starting around February of your first year, you start forming teams of 4-6 students, picking topics, hiring research assistants, and finding one or two faculty advisors.

By May of your first year, Lauderites kick off an exciting year-long marathon of travel, research and writing. During your summer (usually in late May or mid August), your team will travel abroad (together or in mini-groups) for one or two weeks to conduct primary research. The Institute provides a significant stipend towards these travel costs, and summer is long enough that you have time to do GKL research travel plus your summer internship (mine was at SpaceX). Some Lauder students also do Lauder Culture Quest. In the fall, teams will consolidate their research and write a 50-page team paper, although some teams create alternate deliverables, like a website or a documentary (for example, check the project on Gastronomy and Global Cities). The final component of the GKL is a 20-page individual paper, written in the spring on a topic related to your team paper.

There are a few different ways to pick a project – you can inherit and continue a project from a previous graduating class, identify a professor whose research intrigues you, or work with a corporate sponsor in more of a consultant relationship. My team picked our topic by identifying a very cool industry – commercial space tourism – and then identifying professors doing research in related topics. Comprised of Chinese, Spanish and Russian trackers, my team of five Lauderites is researching the existence of early mover advantage among New Space companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic.

Our research has taken us to Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Isle of Man; and Spaceport America (pictured below!).

There isn’t a lot of research or market analysis on this topic, which makes it very motivating to be contributing something new and valuable to this field.

Katie Littlefield (Chinese), Jon Weber (Russian), and Andre Izecson de Carvalho (Spanish) during GKL research.