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NEW SPACE

As the focus of space agencies worldwide gravitates towards science, exploration, military and civil security applications opportunities for the commercial 'New Space' industry are increasing.

The smallsat market (below 500kg payload) for example has grown at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 23% over the last 10 years, a rate that looks set to continue until at least 2024.

Commercial launch operators like Rocket Lab have introduced innovative rideshare concepts and are pursuing first stage reusability, whilst  'horizontal launch' provider Virgin Orbit hopes that their 300-500kg payload capacity Launcher One rocket will find customers around the world. The ability to launch from a converted Boeing 747 could theoretically open up launch opportunities from anywhere with a long enough runway.

But it is the off-world services that these lower cost launch providers enable that is really getting industry excited - from space-based crypto-currencies and lightning-fast data transfer to innovative earth observation platforms that monitor everything from the impacts of climate change to counting cars in factory car parks or trees in a managed forest.

mega constellations

Just two of the huge (and competing) satellite mega-constellations taking shape above our skies are SpaceX's Starlink and OneWeb.

OneWeb's planned constellation of anywhere from 650 to 1,980  satellites aims to provide broadband connectivity worldwide, and they've already launched test satellites aboard an Arianespace Soyuz.

 

They claim to have two customers already signed up and investors including Softbank and Virgin have piled in some $3.6 billion to date - the latter of which seems likely tied to a contract with Virgin Orbit for future satellite launches.

With 122 satellites already deployed, and the advantage of an in-house launcher capability, SpaceX's Starlink constellation is already drawing the ire of astronomers on social media as well as the interest of the financial community worldwide who are eyeing up their claimed data transfer speeds.

Space debris and constellation management are issues for all users of space already, and if SpaceX progress with their planned 12 - 42,000 low-orbit satellite constellation, likely to be issues we're only set to hear more about in the coming years.

off-world industry

Whilst much of the press attention is hogged by the nascent space tourism industry that looks set to be dominated by Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, there are  are a plethora of other services set to complete for payload capacity in the coming decade.

Civilian earth observation is being revolutionised by computer vision and machine learning - whether that's helping hedge funds automatically count the cars in a factory car park to estimate output or foresters to count the trees on their land and assess the health of their crop.

Blockchain-based projects are also competing for in-orbit processing power, with SpaceChain having recently won the financial support of the European Space Agency (ESA) to build out their open-source satellite network which will enable code to be run off-world at a fraction of today's cost.

Beyond bits and bytes baby steps are being taken by the likes of Made In Space who have had a 3D printer on the International Space Station (ISS) since 2016. Two years later they had produced the first high performance optical fiber to be pulled in a microgravity environment with performance an order of magnitude above anything pulled on earth.

NEW SPACE NEWS

Read more about New Space on the Osinto blog, and in the posts below.

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