17 January 2008. ESPI today released the report on “Commercialisation of space and its evolution. Will new ways to share risks and benefits open up a much larger space market?” It contains numerous new ideas on raising the commercial impact of space.
The final report for this ESPI project provides information on the evolution of commercial space activities including satellite communication (including the constellations), Earth observation and launchers. It also includes an investigation in space tourism with its potential impact for human space flight if also orbital space tourism becomes a reality. The report details some of the differences between the United States and Europe as regards the promotion of commercial space activities. As an example the US policy of buying data for the US Governments need of high resolution, freshly captured, optical images have led to the birth of new entrepreneurial companies who at their own risk put their own satellites into orbit. Their contracts with US government agencies makes this risk possible, the profits will come from the sale of images to other customers, using remaining capacity.
A detailed report of available launchers is provided, including the new privately funded commercial launchers from entrepreneurial new companies who challenge the establishment. If they succeed, for the first time there may actually be a significant reduction in the cost of access to space.
The report includes the following recommendations:
1. Governments should stimulate demand by being “smart customers” and give industry flexibility both in implementation and in getting additional revenues.
2. Governments should invite industry and make serious efforts to really reduce the cost of access to space. 3. The current challenge with Galileo is analyzed and a way forward is proposed based upon an adaptation of the way Europe has developed its meteorological satellites and established Eumetsat.
4. The most daring proposal is found in Chapters 8 and 10. Assuming prices of launchers can be brought significantly down if sufficient number of same type launcher are used every year, it is proposed to develop a system for fully automated assembly in orbit of future medium to heavy weight spacecraft, using multiple launchers, one for each individual subassembly.
The latter proposal has led to some new ideas for planetary missions, which will be further studied by ESPI’s Rolf Skaar, who has also been the author of this study.
Background and results of this study together with a study on innovation in the space sector will be presented on 30 January 2008 in Brussels. (Study Presentation: download)
Rolf Rolf Skaar, Permanent Resident of the Founders at ESPI