The future of NewSpace industry is going to undergo changes in the coming months, the current pandemic will influence the future of the space market but it’s still too early to say how great the impact will be. There are going to be huge changes especially in activities related to secure funding for further missions or projects.
However, space is still a priority for governments and organizations, so we can face the future with a positive outlook. In times of uncertainty, the best thing we can do is observe our surroundings and take note of all the up and coming developments and trends, and so be more prepared to face challenges. We would like to talk today about some of the predictions about the future of NewSpace industry that we can see from our current perspective.
Private space missions
Last May, there was a huge step forward in the United States space program with the launch of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. The strong partnership between NASA and SpaceX, and this company’s experience in launching unmanned devices made this event a success.
But this is not the end of the story: private funding in space projects will keep growing in the next few years, the free market is still alive and well. Soon we will see more companies collaborating to develop new technologies and explore the sky together.
NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) has prioritized funding opportunities for public-private partnerships to expand its capabilities. This type of collaboration would help to reduce development costs as well as help new professionals to get involved in space exploration. This could be a great opportunity to work with NASA even if you are not part of it.
Connectivity increase thanks to constellations
Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellations projects are still one of the most exciting ones in terms of making the most of the possibilities that NewSpace can offer us.
These groups of satellites can reach the most remote areas of the world and improve the speed and quality of our communications. This will help in the future of so many different sectors and segments like agriculture, asset tracking, maritime tracking, and aviation tracking. And connectivity is more important than ever in the current coronavirus pandemic.
This makes the constellations projects a key factor in the future of the space investments, even if the economic crisis affects some companies, as is the case with OneWeb filing for bankruptcy. But providers and public organizations will continue to bet on these projects because of the future possibilities that they will open up for them.
Major new challenges for the future of satellites
New responsibilities come with new challenges. Constellations and satellites will help to improve connectivity but there are a lot of issues that come with them. Data processing, communication and storage are just some of the major challenges that companies have to face.
The more satellites that are launched, the more data is created, and so it is crucial to find the best way to securely store that information.
Another challenge that has been pointed out lately is to find the most responsive way to build small satellite constellations so that they can be put into space faster and with the minimum impact.
Inclusion of Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) is also making its way into NewSpace. This new technology will bring great advances in the use of small satellites. For example, it’s possible to use it to create automatic diagnostics that we can use to anticipate any future issues.
It will also help to reduce the amount of data that needs to be downloaded in order to process the information provided by the satellites, which could be a possible solution for the challenge we mentioned before.
On the other hand, there could be room for Artificial Intelligence technology in learning systems that manage the satellite constellation. This will optimise the control of the constellations and help to reduce the amount of tasks needed for its management.
A new kind of antenna
Not only are we going to see changes in terms of software, there are innovations that are going to be included in the design of the satellites used in constellations. Some years ago, NASA challenged engineers to pack an entire satellite dish into a cereal box with Radar in a CubeSat in order to measure rain and snowfall on Earth from space.
This outcome of the project was a new kind of parabolic antenna that made use of the Japanese art of origami. The antennae are folded to occupy less space and are unfurled once in orbit. This will help to create a better communication solution for satellites without worrying about size issues during the launch.
Although at present small satellites or CubeSats have been limited to projects developed in near-Earth orbit, this new technology could help use them to explore much farther away in the future.
New business models
With new connectivity solutions, new business models are needed. As technology has evolved, communication companies need to adapt and put into practice different revenue strategies. In the past the common strategy was to make the client pay per usage time, but this is no longer feasible because the user will not take such plans. If we want to increase people’s connectivity, unlimited access is needed.
But, how are we going to be able to offer this option to everybody? Here is where satellite constellations projects can make a great impact, reducing the cost of a high-speed connection and enabling companies to adapt for the future. The changes in both, the business model and developments in technology such as the nano satellites options, will go hand in hand in the foreseeable future.
NewSpace is still a great source for business opportunities, not only for the private sector but also for institutions and universities that can create the rules for a new future. These organisations are the ones that boost the practical application of the latest developments so they will play an important part in what we will see in the coming years.
Here at Solar MEMS, we are the sun sensor supplier of OneWeb Satellites, manufacturer in the OneWeb mega constellation. We are sure that the next steps of New Space will be linked to this type of new project to develop the global connectivity that allows the development of future new business models.
What do you think is going to change about NewSpace and satellite constellations?