Europe has the technological capacity to ensure that its companies become market leaders in some specific OSAM applications but this would deserve higher means and ambitions from European decision-makers.
While most space systems in the past have been designed to be discarded after their end-of-life, On-Orbit Servicing, Assembly and Manufacturing (OSAM) is increasingly being identified as one of the main activities that will shape the future of the space sector. Although the scope of this domain is still to be fully clarified, expectations are high that it will bring commercial benefits and strong added value for environmental and defence applications.
In 2020, ESPI published a report on In-Orbit Services, which provided an initial analysis and assessment of this nascent technology and highlighted the various technical, economic, political, and legal challenges surrounding it. The current report, prepared in collaboration with Way4Space, goes a step further by providing a forward-looking perspective and identifying measures to foster the development of this sector in Europe.
In particular, the study provides a market analysis recalling the current and planned situation in terms of business cases, missions and funding of OSAM companies, and assessing the drivers and challenges that will impact the development of this market in the future. In addition, a thorough analysis of the policies, regulations and projects related to OSAM in European and non-European states was also conducted, with the objective of identifying the gaps to be filled.
Drawing on these two pillars, the report defines recommendations for the establishment of a strong OSAM ecosystem in Europe, calling for four types of actions:
- Better understanding OSAM;
- Designing legal and policy incentives to encourage the creation of a market;
- Improving OSAM capabilities and services;
- Striving for European strategic autonomy in this domain.