Technology to shape the space industry
For the occasion, European Space Agency (ESA) Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain served as Master of Ceremonies. In his opening speech, he explained how change is inevitable and how important it is for the space industry stakeholders – from enterprises to providers and customers – to collaborate so as to ensure the required transformation of the space sector. This transformation goes hand in hand with the use of appropriate technologies. This echoes EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton speech regarding Europe’s ambition to enhance space power. This ambition regards the development of: space-based connectivity infrastructure, strategy for Space Traffic Management, and Space & Defense Strategy.
On that note, Interdisciplinary Center for Security, Reliability and Trust Chief Scientist Prof. Symeon Chatzinotas presented the potential of new technologies in space innovations, especially the use of 5G/6G networks, Artificial Intelligence as well as space edge processing. For instance, he pointed out that 6G Satellite Communications could help in economy and technology services. It could indeed be useful for private ventures and cheaper/frequent launches. On top, this could also present as a lever to offer new services, in terms of broadband, IoT, or Mobile Edge. Although these technologies are still under development, they do represent interesting tools for the space industry – and beyond.
Yet, some companies have already bet on the use of new technologies, notably Artificial Intelligence (AI) or 5G. On the one hand, Space Shift CEO & Founder Naruo Kanemoto came on stage to present the Space Shift mission. It focuses on the development of software which uses AI to analyze data obtained from Earth Observation (EO). The use of this type of data can contribute to helping companies solve problems. To be clear, LIST R&D Associate Dr. Yu Li defined EO as a remote sensing technology gathering information about planet Earth’s physical, chemical and biological systems. On the other hand, XMW Inc. – represented by its CEO Jin Lee – is one the world leading Ka-band and mmWave (allowing higher data transfer speeds) technologies providers.
The beginning of the EU space lead
Then, SpaceWatch.Global Space Analyst Emma Gatti hosted a round table which gathered several seasoned experts to discuss the key ingredients to European space sovereignty. DG Defense Industry and Space (European Commission) Head of Unit for Space innovation Guillaume de la Brosse highlighted that “space assets are the backbone of the society, economy, and security”. For this reason, it has become essential for Europe to acquire its independence in the space sector. Anywaves Founder & CEO Nicolas Capet clearly stated that Europe possesses the basis to become a world leader regarding space infrastructures, applications and services. In order to activate this, he added that there is a need to “bridge the gaps in terms of market to give [space actors] the chance to become strong companies of tomorrow”.
“Competition pushes actors to go further, it is valid for mature enterprises and valid for newcomers”, ESA Director of Telecommunications & Integrated Applications Elodie Viau stated. This competition is to help both mature and new companies grow stronger and stimulate innovation in the space industry. Capet went further explaining that competition in the space sector is real, but if companies work together this transforms into “coo-petition”. The idea here is to incentivize collaboration between space actors so as to boost European sovereignty. Besides, Unseenlabs Co-founder & CEO Jonathan Galic commented that Europe should also consider secure connectivity as a huge future asset to assert its space power. Unseenlabs was created in France and operates a unique satellite-based technology to identify, recognize and track a broad range of radio emitters. It collects & processes proprietary data for maritime surveillance.
It is to note that there are already European-based companies that are creating made-in-Europe space solutions such as PLD Space, based in Alicante (Spain) which has developed MIURA 5, the first-ever reusable European orbital micro-launcher. The latter is dedicated to small satellites, from CubeSats to Class 1 payloads (450kg). The first drop test occurred in 2019, and the first launch will be performed from French Guyana, in 2024. PLD Space Senior Vice-president Pablo Gallego Sanmiguel also explained that the space company can do a lot of testing as it benefits from propulsion test facilities.
The role of governments in space empowerment
This demonstrates that exponential growth of new technologies opens a wide panel of opportunities for businesses to exploit space-based systems. Yet, this progression needs to go hand in hand with a dedicated legal framework. Today, governments – which implies policies – play a key role in ensuring the right innovation development in the space sector but, as Elodie Viau reminded, “there is a lack of regulations and policies at the European level”. In this sense, Capet said that there is a clear need to simplify all the processes to implement new space programs or innovations.
Last year, in September 2021, six European young space enterprises from Belgium, France, Germany, and Spain (Aerospacelab, Anywaves, ConstellR, Exotrail, Pangea Aerospace, and Satlantis) founded a syndicate for the space sector. The Young European Enterprises Syndicate for Space (YEESS) aims to represent the voice of young space enterprises in Europe. The idea here is to gather private companies and European institutions (such as the ESA or the European Commission) so they can work together on the definition of new programs, new markets, new projects. This collaboration between stakeholders is key to building European space sovereignty and enhancing innovation in Europe.