EU Fellowship subject

The subject of the special study will be an analysis of the growing commercialisation and privatisation of space activities in the United States bringing also into the analysis an EU perspective.

Commercialisation and privatisation of space activities are changing the way in which business are conducted in space. The US is leading this trend, on one hand due to determined federal and state policies that favour it and, on the other hand, on account of US aerospace industry dynamism. Therefore investigating this phenomenon from US soil represents a unique opportunity.

Institutional programmes and funding of space activities were – and to a large extent still are – the forces driving the development of traditional space manufacturing and service industry worldwide. However, the importance of revenues derived from the commercialisation and privatisation of activities have been on a path of steady growth, while the relative share of institutional investment in space has declined.

The commercial satellite communication business has been a frontrunner in the development of a purely private space sub-sector. The increasing number of satellite navigation and publicly-owned and private Earth Observation systems around the Globe, and notably in the US and in the EU, stimulates demand for space based products and services as well as the development of commercial application-development businesses to provide them. Consumer demand for applications combining the potential of satellite communication, Earth Observation and satellite navigation space systems is likely to grow.

The commercialisation and privatisation of space activities also affects space transportation, including launchers, suborbital and low Earth orbit transportation and even space exploration.

Growing commercialisation and privatisation provide responses to the emerging needs of a changing customer base for space products and services. While many space programmes were designed to meet public sector needs (which will remain present), there is today a growing variety of private/commercial customers in search of an ever greater variety of space products and services. This changing customer base and the increase in space products and services demand has the potential to stimulate further growth of the space sector, providing incentives for future private investment (including from non-traditional space investment sources) in space systems and applications.

The commercialisation and privatisation of space activities are inherent to the space sector market development and are linked to the emergence of innovative industrial processes (including serial production, scalable systems and business plans, systematic recourse to off-the-shelf technologies, recourse to disruptive technologies or innovative use of existing ones) which could revolutionise space manufacturing and space activities worldwide.

The commercialisation and privatisation of space activities open new avenues for trans-Atlantic competition and collaboration. Space markets are global and there is plenty of scope for healthy commercial competition as well as for collaboration between companies from both sides of the Atlantic as the tendency for space actors to enter global value chains grows. However, fair competition requires an international level playing field for business in this sector. The space markets development, including the emergence of innovative industrial processes and new business models, will challenge existing regulatory frameworks pushing for increasing trans-Atlantic collaboration on this matter.

In this context, my special study will consist on an analysis of commercialisation and privatisation of space activities, the driving forces behind it and of the issues arising from this trend, addressing, in particular, questions such as:

  • What state/federal policies have induced and are likely to induce or prevent market growth for space?
  • Is there a connection between public investment and the commercial/private development of the space sector?
  • How are commercialisation and privatisation changing the relations between public sector and industry?
  • What is the present outlook for further privatisation of space activities?
  • As commercialisation and privatisation grow, are there practices/regulations that prevent an international level playing field in space market?
  • Are there international regulatory aspects that need to be developed or modified to favour further growth of the space market?
  • What are the US space industry views regarding the future development of a global market for space products and services?
  • What is the likely evolution of the customer base for space products and services?
  • Are there emerging social demands – such as those related to access to information, education or health care – that may influence future space market development?

The methodology will be based on:

  • Structured interviews (face to face or remote) with relevant representatives from industry, administration/government, think tanks and academia.
  • Participation in seminars, conferences related to the subject matter.
  • Study of relevant recent literature on the subject.
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