Rockets & Rigs brings together two major Texas industries, the space industry and the oil and gas industry, to identify common challenges, find tech solutions, and develop pathways to commercialize these solutions. The program got started with a discussion about similarities between space tech and energy tech in a review authored by Schelle Manning, the director of innovation at a Texas Oil and Gas company. At the same time, Expanding Frontiers was asking the question of “how do we get heavy industry interested in space.” So, coming at this from two different directions, we realized that an initiative working at the boundary of space and energy, specifically oil and gas given its importance to the Texas economy, was needed. And so, Rockets & Rigs was born.

Officially started in 2016 with a core team of about a dozen experts and industry leaders, in both the public and private arena, including academia, the Rockets & Rigs initiative has held several meetings to identify and review common challenges (e.g. space and oil and gas are both used to working in remote, often unforgiving, environments) and hold a series of technology hack-a-thons.

The teams reviewed 13 technologies, ranging from water purification to advanced imaging for leak detection, and for each one developed value propositions and roadmaps to commercializing them in space, on Earth, or both. Since then two of those plans have become startup companies in the Expanding Frontiers portfolio, Permittivity and AquaPura, and more are on their way. The program has proven to be a pathway to educate heavy industry about space technology and how it can be more widely used. The space industry, in turn, has learned much about how to commercialize the technology.

In the summer of 2020, Rockets & Rigs was named the winner of a 2020 Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer’s State and Local Economic Development Award.

Future hack-a-thons are currently in the works. Sign up for our newsletter to be notified of Expanding Frontiers news and updates.