International Space Commerce Summit 2013 – report

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The International Space Commerce Summit 2013 was held in London between the 29th and 30th of October. The event covered three main themes: commercial space activities, space-related services and space tourism.

The International Research Network Ltd. organised the two-day space industry conference in London. Almost 50 high ranking representatives from space related companies, agencies, public institutions and NGOs participated to the event. A Kosmonauta.net representative was also present.

The conference focused on commercial space activities and those connected or related to space agencies. The participants had the chance to share their experiences on how to proceed in the most effective way in various parts of the space industry. They debated on how to increase short and long-term profits from space technologies, infrastructure and satellites. The participants also looked into the space tourism market and its investing opportunities, as well as some non-trivial legal aspects.

Is a revolution coming?

Rick Tumlinson of Deep Space Industries (DSI – a company intending to mine asteroids) opened the conference, chaired and moderated the   panels. DSI foresees a revolution coming to space exploration and a paradigm shift in the way of thinking about life on Earth and in space. He explained that “space is a place, not a program to be conducted”. For example DSI wants to mine asteroids and the long-term goal of another space company – Elon Musk’s SpaceX – is the planet Mars. Tumlinson claims that the growing number of space initiatives indicate a revolution in space exploration and those initiatives are an increasing towards a critical mass.
Tumlinson’s words seem to reflect the development of such initiatives. Some of these were also presented at the conference, namely: XCOR, SHIPinSPACE or Mars One. XCOR will probably be one the first companies to start commercial space tourism flights. The first commercial flight is scheduled for the end of the next year. Mars One, though viewed with scepticism by many specialists, generates a lot of interest, while the media and investors seem to be convinced by Bas Lansdrop’s idea. In 2018 Mars One intends to send an unmanned rover to Mars, which will test several key technologies needed for further program stages. If such robotic mission achieved its goals, skeptics might become convinced to build a human settlement on Mars and to sell broadcast rights to television.

An interesting comment after the Mars One presentation was given by Rick Tumlinson, who recalled that in 1988-1992 in the US a law was applied, in which a human mission to Mars was established as the official target of the American space program. Now  work is progress to restore this act.

EADS Astrium sees a revolution in the telecommunications sector. In the next two years the company will be launching the EDRS system, which is built in a public-private partnership. The project is a radio-laser satellite network taking part in satellite and aircraft (including UAV) data transmission to Earth. The final constellation of 3-4 satellites will enable live continuous  transmission and receiving data from satellites with optical fiber quality (the service availability is 99,99999% ie. “seven nines”). Astrium is looking for applications of such services, which will take advantage of the new system. The company works with SSTL and DMCii on a continuous Earth observation system, which will provide observation data almost immediately.

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The Czech Republic and Poland

Panel about insurance of space products, with Barry Matsumori SpaceX vice-president / Credits: Kosmonauta.net

The directors of the Czech Space Office (Jan Kolar) and the Space Research Centre of the Polish Academy of Sciences (Marek Banaszkiewicz) presented their institutions and commercial space activities from their perspective. In the opinion of the Czechs it is crucial to have a national level space activities coordinating body. This could also be seen as advice for Poland. Small countries can be cost-effective partners offering innovating solutions resulting for example from their own culture, methods and mentality. Prof. Banaszkiewicz indicated that the Space Research Centre changes to meet industry and ESA membership needs. Currently it employs more engineers than scientists. The Centre has also launched its spin-off company, Astronika, which recently won two tenders from ESA in the Polish Industry Incentive Scheme. In the opinion of Marek Banaszkiewicz Poland has the chance to become the leader in 1 or 2 space technology areas.

Space oases on Earth

The Cavendish Trust representative encouraged to base space technology commercialization activities at the Isle of Man. The island, a self governing British crown dependency, offers companies coming from the space industry a number of financial advantages, grants and legal support. Currently almost 40 space industry companies are based in the Isle of Man, including SES or Inmarsat. The US State Virginia is encouraging space investment in a similar way and is followed by the Oklahoma State.

Law – the underestimated part of space exploration

A number of presentations during the London event covered space law. It turns out that space law often does not keep face with technological developments or even requirements of the space industry companies. Only six European Union countries have their own national implementations on small satellites. Unknown legal aspects are not the only issues such as the case of satellite caused damage insurance, but are also related to the satellite registration itself.
Another important section of the space law, which was discussed at the ISC conference is the space law. The discussions focused on manned suborbital missions, including tourist flights.    The first country to create such law is the United States. This happened due to the smooth cooperation of governmental agencies and companies participating in the NASA led COTS program. But even there not all issues are covered. Some European countries intend to operate suborbital flights as well.
The speakers pointed out that Europe will need to create a common law sooner or later, especially in case, when other companies will intend to conduct international suborbital flights.

Presentation by Bas Lansdrop, founder of Mars One / Credits: Kosmonauta.net

Space ports are available, spaceships are not

A separate panel on spaceports and private space tourism was held. Although on a global scale there are a few spaceports available, yet there is no spacecraft capable to conduct such flights. The first one to do so will be probably the XCOR or Virgin Galactic vehicle, but the problem of infrastructure maintenance remains. Currently spaceports manage by offering other services, like incubating space companies or hall and laboratory rental.

However, the speakers believe, that the market for such services and needed infrastructure is created in such way. Such places also drive change in legal issues, which need many modifications in order to allow rocketships to fly and offer tourism flights. Spaceport organizers consider them as a showcase intending to show support for high-tech and innovative companies.  Sometimes it is also easier to create a spaceport and to start a comprehensive organization of the space industry.

The conference presented subjects on various commercial issues related to the space industry, exploration and space utilization. The speakers had various experience, ranging from practical (companies), theoretical (law) to organizational (public institutions). Based on it they gave advice and clues on how to commercialize space projects and develop them further.   Due to a rising number of private and public-private initiatives, there is a need to share experiences. Discussions on events such as the ISC are crucial to accomplish this goal.

Kosmonauta.net / ISC2013 Summit organised by IRN

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