25 May 2021
New space presents new opportunities for exploration
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OBSERVE talks with space industry leaders about the impact of ‘new space’ on industries and talent
Space has entered a new era, with the adoption of more commercial, entrepreneurial activities leading to what is being described as ‘new space’ or ‘space 2.0’.
There have been several reasons behind this evolution. They include a significant decrease in launching prices over the last years, accompanied by broader access to advanced technologies and miniaturisation of equipment. As such, technology today is now smaller, innovation cycles are shorter, and costs to access space are lower than ever before.
Also contributing to the rise of new space are increasing productivity, improved capabilities and lower costs from within the satellite industry, which makes up around three quarters of the global space economy.
What might be surprising is that new space provides opportunities that span start-ups – giving rise to the ‘astropreneur’ – small to medium enterprises (SMEs), and large businesses, which all offer different space products and services.
Alice Bunn, Director, International of the UK Space Agency, says:
“New space is fundamentally a series of entrepreneurs taking advantage of the fact that space has become more accessible, as the cost of access is going down and the ubiquity of the market opportunity is going up.”
“Space now plays such an integral part in everyday services around the world which has driven this rise.”
Opening up opportunities
So what impact are all these new players – and increased competition – having on the established space companies?
Marc Serres, CEO, Luxembourg Space Agency & Head of Space Affairs, believes the entire sector is benefiting from the changes. This is because new space is more a matter of evolution than “old” versus “new” space companies.
“Even established companies are catching opportunities. We can do more than 10 years ago, and we will be able to do more in 10 years than today. Several studies show that the overall market is growing leading to opportunities for new and already established companies.”
Enrico Palermo, Head of the Australian Space Agency agrees, noting that firms are challenged to be agile and adapt to change, which creates both innovation and collaboration opportunities for all types of companies.
“Newer, smaller companies can strengthen critical supply chains for more established space companies, as well as for government-based missions, by bringing in new technology, innovation and expertise,” he says.
The surge in space sector investment is having an impact elsewhere – including recruitment. George Whitesides, Chair, Space Advisory Board, Virgin Galactic, believes the dominant constraining factor to rapid progress will shift from capital to people.
“There will soon be multiple space unicorns on the talent playing field, all armed with healthy equity programs and strong balance sheets. This dynamic will probably increase the already strong competition for top talent in the space sector.”
Bunn believes the traditional characterisation of sectors is becoming less relevant, and people expect research to be cross-disciplinary, and careers to be more diverse.
“But the unifying factor is that we need more people graduating with science and engineering qualifications,” she says. “Within that, the space sector continues to do well as it is by its nature an exciting and inspiring subject, but there can be challenges holding on to skilled and trained staff as people progress their careers in more diverse ways.”
Elsewhere, Palermo notes that a key Australian Government goal is to create up to another 20,000 direct and indirect jobs in the civil space sector by 2030. The space industry will create new, sustainable jobs across traditional trades through to advanced manufacturing and cutting-edge science and research.
“Rather than a ‘war on talent’, there is an almost universal awareness now that we need a global uplift of high-tech skills to support modern industries, particularly skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).”
“Fortunately, space has fascinated both young and old alike for generations. Space can inspire young Australians and career-changers to pursue STEM courses. What is most exciting about new space is that it generates possibilities and opportunities for a wider range of people, particularly Australians, to be part of the growing space industry. You do not need to meet the physical requirements of an astronaut to build and run a space business.”
Likewise, he says organisations can find transferrable skills for the space sector in the multiple industries ‘adjacent’ to space, such as aircraft manufacturing and repair, computer system design, and surveying and mapping services. These adjacent industries possess space relevant capabilities and employ highly skilled professionals and technical expertise, such as in data analysis and engineering.
“These skills can form the basis for developing our next crop of space system engineers, rocket designers and Earth Observation data analysts,” he says.
New space, new philosophy
The potential of new space is vast and can provide opportunities across a wide range of sectors, skills and company types.
Says Whitesides: “It is a worldview and strategy that looks beyond a purely government-customer focus to envision new revenue streams and uses new contractual mechanisms to achieve desired outcomes in ways that are potentially more efficient.”
It is therefore important to remember that new space is a way of doing business, rather than a group of specific companies. New space is a philosophy and a vision for the development of the space sector that opens the door to a new era of space exploration.
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