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Space Tech Expo: Commercial Space as a Catalyst for Progress

“No longer the exclusive preserve of NASA and government agencies, space is ‘fair game’ for commercial organizations” – This statement forms the basis of the 2013 Space Tech Expo, which examines “The Business Case for Space.”
While space was traditionally the domain of government, the charge for developing new technology and advances in space is being led by the commercial sector. Space Tech Expo, which began yesterday in Long Beach, California, is set to spark many discussions about the rise of private space and showcase the new developments arising from it.

The commercial sector’s  innovations and entrepreneurial approach are driving growth, increasing the sector’s share of existing markets, stimulating new markets, and in turn, driving down costs. The government may remain the main customer, but the commercial sector is increasingly investing in technological developments, replacing past dependency on government funding. This has acted as a catalyst, making space more accessible as budgets are tightened.

Space tourism, spearheaded by the likes of Virgin Galactic and Mars One, is a perfect example and a thread that will run through the Space Tech Expo. Opening up space travel and other commercial launch opportunities to the private market has created demand, secured funding, and driven progress for technologies that may have previously struggled to gain momentum. The technologies that will send humans into space as paying customers for (relatively) affordable prices will also create opportunities for “private enterprises and educational institutions looking to undertake research and development, scientific experiments, and small satellite launches” [Space Tourism session- Day 1]. While space was previously prohibitively expensive for some of these enterprises and institutions, the promise of revenue from space tourism has advanced technology and driven down costs, resulting in more realistic business cases for new opportunities.



Human spaceflight may be dominating the headlines in commercial space; however, there is increasing interest in commercial solutions such as hosted payloads, nanosatellites, and reusable rockets as space solutions. Small companies often offer the scientific developments and disruptive ideas necessary to create alternatives to costly or outdated technology in a challenging industry environment. Over the last decade, small satellites have emerged as one of these successful alternatives with highly capable constellations of small satellites delivering a commercial return for remote sensing companies such as Rapideye and Surrey-group company, DMCii.

Dwindling budgets have led to innovative rethinking in other industries and we expect to see them do the same in the space sector.

 

22 May 20130 Comments1 Comment

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