Big Ideas for the Space Industry in 2020

Big ideas for the space industry in 2020

Please note that this article was originally published on LinkedIn at this link.

Inspired by the LinkedIn editorial team’s recent post on 20 big ideas for 2020 we’d like to share with you our own list of thoughts on where we see the space industry going next year.

The list certainly isn’t exhaustive and not meant to be polarising in any way – just our honest assessment of some aspects of the industry, based on speaking and working with hundreds of great companies throughout 2019.

In January this year we did a brief review of some expert predictions for the space industry in 2019 and it is interesting that most of the major themes are still in discussion here. This reflects the fact that there are only a relatively small number of major drivers in the industry (though this is increasing) and that space ventures take a long time to get right.

Which leads nicely into our first big idea…

It’ll be steady as she goes in many sectors

Not quite a shocking start, but this is a genuine prediction. By many of the measures used to track the space industry (e.g. number of companies, deals, products, services etc.) there has been steady and sustained growth over the past few years and we expect that trend to continue in 2020.

Although the mega-constellations are set to drive a lot of new satellite development in the near future, the democratisation of the industry is also a real and growing trend. Right across the industry we’re seeing new, smaller buyers and suppliers complete deals and create new partnerships that are leading to commercial results.

And here at satsearch we’re all very excited to play a part in this in 2020!

With great volume will come great process optimisation

As mentioned, satellite constellations are set to dominate a large part of the smallsat manufacturing sector pretty soon, if they don’t already. And as greater demands are placed on developers we expect to see new tools, approaches and technologies integrated into manufacturing operations.

Many of these will be inspired by lessons learned in the automotive industry, a topic we discussed back in August, and companies with the ability (and track record) to provide optimised satellite manufacturing capabilities could find plenty of new opportunities in 2020.

CubeSats in orbit

Collaborations will be increasingly professionalised

Space is a difficult endeavour and smaller companies often need to find partners with both public and private organisations in order to progress. Traditionally the smaller players in the industry have dealt with each other on the fringes of conferences and industry events, developing new collaborations to overcome their lack of resources in comparison to the defence giants and agencies.

But as the industry gets more and more dynamic these partnerships are becoming increasingly valuable to the participants and so we expect that more time and effort will be put into them from all sides. This will be seen in both the presentation and promotion of a new collaboration as well as the commercial results it can generate.

We’ll see continued growth of the X-as-a-service

In an industry trend not just confined to space, we’re increasingly seeing many industry processes offered by third parties as a service. The idea is that the customer is able to deal with a single expert partner or tool that can handle everything, simplifying processes and lowering costs.

Easy to understand and easy to buy – the ‘X-as-a-service’ model makes a lot of sense for both parties where there is discrete value creation. We have seen this emerge in many areas, from ground segment-as-a-service to ‘done-for-you’ launch provision and management, and this is a commercial offer and marketing strategy that we expect will be even more popular in 2020.

Exploration will still (rightly) capture most public attention

For those outside of the industry bubble it is the big exploratory missions that usually generate the most interest. This is usually a good thing – the big missions that push the boundaries of our understanding and progress in the universe get the general public, as well as businesses who haven’t otherwise thought they could benefit, thinking and learning about space.

Next year for example we’ll hopefully see further major tests and possibly launches for:

  • NASA’s Artemis Program (which aims to land the first woman on the Moon and the next man on the Moon by 2024),
  • NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover,
  • ESA’s ExoMars 2020 mission,
  • CNSA’s Mars mission,
  • The UAE’s Hope Mars mission,
  • The Solar Orbiter mission by ESA and NASA, and
  • CNSA’s Chang’e 5 mission to the Moon.

You can find out more about these missions, and a range of others, in this article.

Mars missions 2020 on satsearch

Space debris mitigation will increasingly be on the agenda

Space debris is no longer a fringe topic – it is now a critical area of discussion for the space industry and the decisions made over the next few years could have major ramifications for space missions in the next few decades.

There are some major missions in progress that seek to one day develop a really scalable, efficient and cost-effective solution to the problem of space debris, such as ESA’s CleanSpace-1 mission. In addition, the US Air Force also recently began trialling a sophisticated object tracking system called Space Fence that could help alleviate the problem. We’re also seeing new policies brought in by regulators and industry bodies that recognise its importance.

Maybe 2020 will be the year when a space debris collision is serious enough to warrant some other further, immediate action. Or maybe not. But commercial and political pressures are gradually moving the needle when it comes to finding ways to mitigate the issue and this will only intensify next year.

Modular components and sub-systems will become the norm

If they don’t already, we think that in 2020 upstream clients will come to expect suppliers to provide certain products in a modular format as standard. We’re seeing large numbers of leads come in for a wide variety of modules on a one-off basis, with customers specifying the requirements of their existing system setup.

This industry trend should see suppliers continue to work on standardising their products and solving interoperability issues to demonstrate how their technology fits with other third-party systems. An excellent example of this is satsearch member Leaf Space’s pre-integration of common radio models, manufactured by other suppliers, into their shared ground station network.

Continued growth in Asia

It is possible that China will lead the world in number of launches in 2020. In addition, buoyed by the partial success of the Chandrayaan 2 mission (despite the failed landing on the Moon), India’s ISRO is also planning to use an expected budget increase to expand operations next year.

On the satsearch platform we see a lot of activity around companies in India, Japan and other countries across Asia – and this shows no signs of slowing down!

In conclusion

2019 was a very exciting year for space but we think 2020 will be even bigger. Concerns over debris and militarisation persist but with each new launch concept, innovation and startup entering the market, the solutions to the issues and roadblocks that affect the industry are being steadily overcome.

The space industry is employing more people and creating more value than ever and we can’t wait to see where things get to by this time next year!

What are your predictions for space in 2020? Which big ideas are you most excited by?

Let us know on Twitter!

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