Space-Based Technologies and Commercialized Development: Economic Implications and Benefits

Space-Based Technologies and Commercialized Development: Economic Implications and Benefits

Stella Tkatchova (TUDelft University, The Netherlands)
Indexed In: SCOPUS
Release Date: April, 2011|Copyright: © 2011 |Pages: 286
ISBN13: 9781609601058|ISBN10: 160960105X|EISBN13: 9781609601072|DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-105-8


A new era of space-based technology and interplanetary exploration will produce cost-effective solutions and innovative technologies to fulfill current societal needs.

Space-Based Technologies and Commercialized Development: Economic Implications and Benefits introduces the concept of space-based technology commercialization and offers a first-time analysis of plausible opportunities. This essential reference examines the overall marketability of tourism in outer space, including business case studies on celestial solar power and space debris that demonstrate the potential of cosmic technologies in the context of interplanetary business.

Topics Covered

The many academic areas covered in this publication include, but are not limited to:

  • Benefits of space economics
  • Commercialization of interplanetary spacecraft technology
  • Competitiveness in the space industry
  • Emerging markets and applications
  • Market trends in the space industry
  • Space exploration concepts
  • Space solar power
  • Space technology commercialization
  • Space tourism

Reviews and Testimonials

"In this study, Dr. Tkatchova thoroughly analyzes the space economy and its benefits for nations, space agencies, space and non-space companies, and society by using actual historical experiences, especially human space exploration. This is the time I have seen such a book which so clearly sets out the direct and indirect benefits from space activities. She also looks to the future and identifies the expected benefits from space tourism and a manned Mars mission. I hope this book will provide all of us with a reconfirmation of the benefits from space activities and contribute to our decision-making for new space programs, especially new international human exploration programs."

– Kazuhide Todome, President of Japan Manned Space Systems (JAMSS)

Selected as a Fall 2011 Shelf-Worthy Academic Title by Baker & Taylor.


Table of Contents and List of Contributors

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The objective of this book is to identify, describe and analyse the benefits to national space agencies, space companies, non-space companies and private investors, from the commercial use of space-based technology and services from human spaceflight and interplanetary space missions. i

In this book the different aspects of commercialisation of space technology and the new markets and space applications in the context of today’s society needs are analysed. Furthermore, in it there is an analysis of the market trends taking place in today’s’ space industry and its competitiveness, the changes taking place within the industry and the changing space agencies industrialisation policies.

The development of commercial crew and cargo services, the development of new low cost launchers and sub-orbital vehicles, the emergence of a space tourism market, the construction of solar power satellites and space ports, are recent trends taking place in the space industry. These new developments are only possible because of the capital invested by private investors and entrepreneurs, who understand the importance of space technology in our day to day lives. However, in order to be able to achieve technology innovation and in parallel sustain private funding, companies will have to have to consider the benefits from commercialisation of space technology so that they can develop viable business cases. Measuring the economic impact from the use of space-based technology and learning lessons from MIR and ISS commercialisation and the aviation industry, will support identifying direct and indirect benefits from space technology commercialisation. The direct benefits will be employment, revenues from sales, new markets, cost savings, employment and technology reliability/interoperability, while the indirect benefits will be free publicity, technology innovation, international cooperation/ partnerships and environment protection. The above benefits definition will support companies in projects assessment through performing cost benefit analyses. 

Finally in this book there is an analysis of the space tourism market and two business cases one on mitigation and removal of space debris and the second one on solar power satellites use for energy provision. 

Commercialisation of space-based technology from future interplanetary missions can contribute with new ideas, cost-effective solution and the development of key - enabling technologies, that will result in space applications that will improve our day to day lives and bring economic benefits to national economies.

Role of Space Technology and Infrastructure

Space technology and infrastructure, such as telecommunications, navigation and earth observation space systems have become essential in our daily lives. In the 70s the Apollo missions contributed to more than 1,500 spin-offs to our lives with the development of kidney dialysis machines, freeze dried foods, scratch resistant lenses and flame resistant textiles. Today navigation systems contribute to air and road traffic safety, precision agriculture, oil and rack positioning and earth observation systems support environment monitoring, disaster and natural resources management. In addition, research on-board the ISS is contributes with the development of new medicines, osteoporosis therapies, cell and tissue growth studies, development of medical instrument scanning equipment, new light materials and new methods for water purification and processing. 

Nevertheless many companies and citizens do not fully appreciate or understand the benefits of space technology and R&D to our daily lives. Therefore, decision makers, space agencies leaders, space companies, university researchers and space visionaries are burdened with the challenging day to day task to continuously justify the benefits and role of space technology and explorations to our daily lives. Rather than concentrating their efforts and resources in developing key - enabling technologies and solutions using space-based technologies and solutions for environment protection and monitoring and for solar power energy generation. 

Chapter 1: Commercial Transportation Services

Chapter 1 analyses NASA 2011 budget and strategy for encouraging the development of key enabling technologies, extension of ISS commercialisation and the development of commercial crew and cargo vehicles and services. The development of low cost launchers, private sub-orbital transportation vehicles and space ports and US commercial space flight capabilities hold a promise for a new space exploration vision and industry.

Therefore, in this chapter there will be an overview of NASA Funding for 2011 and NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. Furthermore, in it there will be a discussion on the indicators for measuring the impact of different projects under NASA COTS program. In addition, this chapter will provide an overview of SpaceX, Orbital, Virgin Galactic, Ansari X-prize and Google Lunar X-prize and Caribbean space port activities. Finally, in it will be discussed the importance of integrating non-space companies mission requirements for future space missions.

Chapter 2: Moon and Mars Space Exploration Concepts

The Apollo 11 landing on the Moon on July 24th 1969 marked a new era of human space exploration, and a new generation of space scientists, visionaries and dreamers was born. A generation for which Lunar habitats, Mars missions  and interplanetary colonization are were only but a natural step of space exploration.

Today, almost 40 years after the last Moon landing in 1972, we are starting to understand the benefits from space exploration to humankind. Therefore, this chapter will provide an overview of  the Apollo mission benefits, NASA 1969 space exploration strategy, Russian, European, Japanese, other countries Moon and Mars programs and a Global Space Exploration strategy.  

Chapter 2 there is an analysis of the expected benefits from space agencies Moon and Mars space exploration visions and description of the reasons behind benefits definition.

Chapter 3: Space Stations Commercialisation

The objective of Chapter 3 is to introduce space agencies' commercialisation strategies and also to analyses the lessons learned, the reasons and the benefits behind space station commercialisation. The lessons learned from the space station commercialisation will illuminate the hidden hurdles of commercialisation of space stations and interplanetary missions. Furthermore, this chapter will provide an analysis of the challenges facing the commercialisation of space stations and space-based technology for interplanetary missions.

Chapter 4: Space Industry Market Trends

Market trend analysis in the space industry will provide an understanding of the challenges facing the global space industry. The industry encompasses several market segments, such as Telecommunications, Earth Observation, Navigation, Human Space-Flight and Interplanetary Exploration segments.  

Chapter 4 provides an overview of the space industry stakeholders, market trends in the telecommunications, navigation and launcher segments, and national space industries (i.e. Europe, Russia, Japan, etc.). In addition, the benefits of interplanetary human and robotic exploration for national space industries are discussed.  

Chapter 5: Emerging Markets and Space Applications 

Telecommunications, navigation and earth observation space systems have become essential for safety in our daily lives. Research on-board space stations has  contributed to the development of new medicines, osteoporosis drug development and instrument scanning equipment, new materials, and the development of new methods for water purification and processing.

In recent years, space agencies have started encouraging the development of new  markets and new industrial applications for the use of navigation (i.e. Galileo, GPS, etc.),  earth observation space systems like GMES and research on board the ISS. New markets will pass through different phases of market evolution and the companies and agencies involved in the applications development will face numerous challenges in market segmentation definition. New space-based markets and applications with their technology and process solutions may contribute to energy production, environment and disaster management processes and protection.

Only a few years ago, the idea of private citizens paying for trips to the ISS was in the realms of science fiction. Today, in 2010, it has become a reality and entrepreneurs are investing in the development of sub-orbital transportation vehicles and space ports. Space agencies have started recognizing the importance of commercial crew and cargo transportation services and NASA has even allocated a budget for encouraging the development of these services. Nevertheless, investing in commercial space projects is still considered to be challenging and risky. Funding is limited and is primarily available through prize competitions or partial project funding from agencies.

Chapter 6: Competitiveness of Space Industry

Space industry is dominated by the rules and regulations of its institutional customers. High market-entry barriers, complex procurement rules, technology-driven competition and buying rules define the space market segmentation. High interdependence between players, high market-entry barriers, mergers and acquisitions, and the small number of players indicate the existence of an oligopoly market structure.

Export regulations, licensing, International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and European Authorized Representative (EAR) regulations are some of the market-entry barriers which space companies have to face. These barriers will not only result in revenues losses from sales for space manufacturing companies, but they will also influence the direct and indirect benefits from commercial utilisation of space-based technology from interplanetary missions and future commercial and crew and cargo transportation services. This chapter will analyse the competitiveness of the space industry, discuss the market structure in the space industry, the market-entry barriers, and the space-related patents and partnerships. 

Chapter 7: Space Tourism

NASA astronaut Roberta Bondar said: “To fly in space is to see the reality of Earth, alone. The experience changed my life and my attitude towards life itself. I am one of the lucky ones.”. Space tourism offers the possibility for more and more people to enjoy something that up till now less than 500 professional astronauts and “flight participants” have been able to experience: the excitement of a launch, microgravity and the stunning view of Earth from space.

Market surveys indicate that the number of people willing to spend serious money on a ticket to space is huge, but of course a strong function of the price. At the moment, the only possibility to pay your way into orbit is buying a $30 million ticket for a flight with a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station. However, more affordable albeit much shorter trips into space will soon become available via Virgin Galactic, which is offering flights onboard its suborbital rocket plane for about $200,000. Early 2008 Virgin Galactic had about 200 assured passengers, $30 million in deposits and about 85,000 registrations from interested potential customers.

Chapter 8: Space Economics and Benefits

In Chapter 8 there is a short introduction to space economics, economic impact and benefits (e.g. employment) from the use of space based technology. Furthermore, in it there is an overview of space budgets, space employment and products and examples of the aviation industry benefits. Based on which a proposal for measuring the economic benefits and impacts to national economies from interplanetary space-based technologies is made. Examples from the aviation industry will be used for identification of direct and indirect benefits. Examples of direct benefits will be employment, revenues from sales, new markets, cost savings, employment and technology reliability, while the indirect ones will be promotion, technology innovation, international cooperation and environment protection. Examples of such benefits are the free worldwide publicity Google generated from their participation in the Google Lunar X-prize. The expected result of Chapter 8 is to show the economic impact space based technologies can have and propose benefits for space agencies, industries and societies from commercialization of space-based technologies.

Chapter 9: An Analysis of Two Space Business Opportunities

Chapter 9 analyses two commercial applications and develops the business case for each of them.  The first application is the mitigation and removal of space debris. This application is immediately economically viable and feasible to implement with current technology or relatively minor technological advances. Space debris is defined as any man-made object in earth orbit that is not deployed by any working systems. The large number of space debris creates significant hazards for existing satellites and would generate even bigger risks for any future expansion of human presence in earth orbit. The market for space debris mitigation and removal is large. The profit opportunities are relatively easily defined, yet only a handful of private companies currently provide products and services to this market. 

The second application we evaluate is Space Solar Power (SSP). SSP involves the conversion of solar energy into electromagnetic waves by satellites in orbit, beaming these waves to rectifying antennas (rectennas) on the ground and converting them into electricity. Space Solar Power is considered currently unviable either for technological or economic reasons. Nevertheless, with certain technological advances and/or the engagement of high-value clients it could offer tremendous opportunities for profit. Space solar power is a source of energy that does not generate greenhouse gases, has a much smaller heat rate than any conventional power generation method, and can provide enough energy to meet the needs of the entire Earth’s population for a practically unlimited time horizon. Consequently, successful implementation of large scale SSP systems could in the long run solve at least two existential problems facing humanity ¬¬– energy generation and climate control. We develop our business case around two hypothetical SSP systems. 

After analyzing the technological challenges and developing the business cases, we turn to the major issues of financing any commercial ventures that wish to operate in each of our two chosen space industries. Space debris mitigation and removal and especially Space Solar Power   have several features that make them unattractive for private capital providers. First, there is a significant upfront investment in research, development and testing before any product becomes operational. Due to the uncertain outcomes and long payback periods, investments in R&D in general attract only a small number of specialized private investors like venture capitalists or large companies operating in oligopolistic industries. Investments in SSP-related R&D are expected to be extraordinarily risky with paybacks exceeding 25 years.  


The new developments taking place in the global space arena will impact not only national space industries, but will also bring benefits to national economies. In 10 years space agencies would have changed their industrial policies and some agencies would have implemented programs for encouraging space applications and commercial crew and cargo markets development.

Furthermore, it is possible that the high expectations from the space tourism market to have soured down and companies, such as Virgin Galactic, Bigelow and Space Adventures to have already diversified their services and entered traditional space industry markets (i.e.  launching micro-satellites). 

In addition, the impact of the US President decision to cancel the US Constellation program in 2010 would have been already felt with reduced institutional human space flight activities by space agencies. 

However, commercial crew and cargo services markets, would have developed but the lack of a space station after 2021 would have impacted private investment in commercial projects. The lack of a clear deadline from NASA for human spaceflight missions to Mars or to asteroid missions will drag and delay the development of these planned human spaceflight missions. Therefore, resulting in delays in the development of human rated heavy launchers and the implementation of new propulsion systems. Most of the planned human space missions to asteroid or Mars may transform into robotic ones rather than human space flight ones. 

Companies and space agencies involved in developing low cost launchers will learn several lessons from MIR and ISS commercialisation. One of  them will be that non-space companies are not ready to provide funds for helping agencies achieve their cost-recovery objectives. As for private space companies, space agencies are usually the end-customer. The Second lesson will be that top-down market analysis, unknown customers and markets, the length of time required to market a product developed in space, the complexity of the relationship with space agencies, and the lack of a long term vision, may confuse commercial companies. Finally, competition from terrestrial technologies may discourage customers to launch commercial projects using space-based technologies.

Space agencies will allocate their budgets primarily in the development of earth observation and navigation systems and in the implementation of programs for encouraging the development of space applications. Decisions makers in space agencies and public bodies may face difficulties justifying human space flight exploration and be constrained in attracting long term funding for human space flight missions.

Space industry would have transformed and become much more competitive and traditional space companies would have started partnering with new players, such as Space Adventures, Bigelow, Space-X and Virgin Galactic. 

These companies will have attract long term funding and develop conservative business cases in order to overcome mission delays and secure the integration of their user requirements in the early phases of space missions. The companies involved in commercial projects will have to develop business cases for which investors will be willing to invest. Therefore, they will need to qualify the benefits for space agencies and non-space companies from future commercialization of space technology for future interplanetary missions will contribute to defining a commercialization strategy for future missions.  The space tourism market would have developed, in parallel the market for space debris mitigation and possibly the one for generation of solar power  through satellites would have also developed. 

Commercialisation of space technology and solutions can be primarily achieved through the development of space applications for self-sustainable energy solutions  or for understanding climate change and reduction of human made pollution.

The analyses, statements and conclusions in this book are the authors’ personal ones and not of the organisations for which they work.

Author(s)/Editor(s) Biography

Stella Tkatchova, Ph.D., is a Space Business Engineer at Rhea System S.A. a leading Belgian aerospace company. She has the unique opportunity to work on new business development, the company's marketing plan, proposals preparation and the development of projects related to space-based applications. She holds a PhD from the Industrial Engineering Group of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering at TUDelft, the Netherlands and a Master of Science (M.Sc.) in Space Studies from the International Space University (ISU), France. In parallel to her PhD research she worked for several years as a contractor at European Space Agency (ESA)-ESTEC on industrialisation and marketing of the ESA ISS on-board facilities at ESA Commercial Promotion Office (CPO). She started her career working on the market analysis study for the expected revenues from the geomatic applications for the Galileo navigation system and the cost drivers for Metop-A at ESA Cost Analysis Division. Since her childhood in Sofia, Bulgaria she has always dreamt of interplanetary exploration and therefore, developed a strong passion for researching the commercialisation of space-based technologies for future interplanetary space missions, future space markets and ways for benefits identification and strategies for creation of public private partnerships for encouraging space technology industrialisation. Her passion led her into setting up a discussion forum in the International Journal of Space Technology Management and Innovation, of which she is the Chief Editor. She believes that space-technology can offer to non-space companies the unique opportunity to exploit technologies that will result in the development of new markets, applications and technologies. Commercialization of space technology will bring direct and indirect benefits to society in the areas of science, environment protection, disease prevention, energy generation and technology innovation.