This questions is purely about government agencies, not private companies.

Typically the massive reams of data that must be produced to design and qualify a satellite or rocket aren't openly shared with the public. Aside from the 'we pay for it, we should get access to the data' I see a few solid reasons why this sort of work should be openly shared;

  1. Promote growth in the sector.
  2. Promote the agencies competencies.
  3. Show good engineering practice.

I'm sure there are more reasons, these are just the 3 off the top of my head (I'm clearly wearing a weird hat).

As far as I can tell there's only a few reasons against sharing this type of data;

  1. Loss of profitability.
  2. Competition.

The second reason is almost a joke, there's so much cross agency cooperation these days that we can barely tighten a bolt without getting the wrench from another country. This leads me to think that profitability is the main reason... is it?

  • $\begingroup$ Military motives is certainly important for secrecy in rocket and satellite development. For example, Proton was developed as an ICBM (before nuclear miniaturization) and today the US doesn't want to help Iran develop rockets. And even if, say, Russia is willing to aid Iran, they want to do so in a way they control. One doesn't generally talk about profitability for governments, it just steals or prints whatever money it wants anyway. $\endgroup$ – LocalFluff Oct 25 '15 at 8:21
  • $\begingroup$ A lot of space technology is developed in partnership with industry, and they obviously want to profit from their IP (rightfully so). It's recognized that taxpayer dollars are used for that partnership so there is always a significant push to share something -- whether that something is satisfactory to us kind of varies, I suppose! $\endgroup$ – Brian Lynch Oct 25 '15 at 9:02
  • $\begingroup$ One example that comes to mind is Radarsat (1 and 2). These are Canadian satellites developed by MDA for the Canadian Space Agency. The data is shared with government ministries for natural resources, transportation, surveillance, etc., but is also sold to customers who want the same information (farms, shipping companies, etc.). But, that revenue goes to MDA and so they are the ones capitalizing, not CSA. $\endgroup$ – Brian Lynch Oct 25 '15 at 9:07
  • $\begingroup$ Answers may be country-specific, so you'd better narrow down the scope. $\endgroup$ – Deer Hunter Oct 25 '15 at 12:35

NASA's Intellectual Property policy contains a lot of information. If I'm reading the legalese correctly, it states that NASA can file for patents, and will license those technologies if appropriate. See this site for a list of patents that NASA is willing to license, for instance. This site also lists examples of some patents that NASA will give for free, then request royalties after a period of time. It has stated that it will not sue for patent infringement, but will prevent such items from being developed without appropriate licensing.

As to why they can, it can actually encourage growth. NASA's patents tend to be partially formed. It takes a lot of funding to bring them to fruition. If a company is paying for exclusive use of a patent, then they will be motivated to finish the technology (By having paid for it, and having exclusive rights to said technology). They also use it as a motivator for the individual who created said patent, who earns a significant portion of the money from the patent (25%, according to my research)


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