1. Yes, spacecraft are commoditizing: cheaper, quicker, smaller and more performing, but also more fragile, less reliable and durable.
2. Yes, entry barriers are definitely lower, as space is much more accessible now than ever.
3. And yes, tens of unprecedented solutions based on space assets can now deliver valuable products, generating profitable business.
Space market is changing and old good space companies are confronted by new players, very focused, determined and agile. Shall they still rely the biggest share of their running business on the usual institutional market? This would definitely be the wisest choice in addressing point 1 and 2 (In parallel with internal cost heavy optimization), but what about number 3? Shall they then accept the challenge of emerging markets, considering that commercial customers will not absorb any development cost?
To answer yes, detailed and extensive business plans need to be deployed to convince owners, investors and supporters of every nature about the sustainability, profitability and predictability of the proposed opportunity in a domain where business models often have no benchmark and market forecast uncertainty is objectively high. And such plans have to speak the financial language, not the scientific language, despite the pure technical background of most of the new space entrepreneurs.
To be attractive, this endeavours shall show a lean company cost structure; by no surprise the resulting ecosystem of start ups, incubated either by large companies (directly via internal Venture Capital schemes) or by independent Angels – with the perspective of a future acquisition.
Yes, the truth is that we are navigating unchartered waters, and which domain is more used to this feeling than space? Pioneers, to survive, must certainly be prepared and creative, so that they can find solutions using the toolbox in their trunk. And the available tools will never be enough or matching, but you have to work it out, maybe using them in a different way or sequence.
This is to say that a successful idea sometimes just needs to aggregate existing technologies, maybe across different markets, in a way never done before. Cross-fertilization of different domains can be an excellent catalyst of disruptive innovations.
The In-Orbit Servicing is a perfect example on how existing technologies, not necessarily space-exclusive, can be synthetized to generate a new branch of services –such as space logistics– dedicated to all existing space assets owners, private and institutional, offering the possibility to safeguard and keep their investments fully operational.
Developing remotely-controlled dexterous in-orbit operability can also enable specific business relevant to industrial manufacturing processes in low-gravity environment, characterised by very low pressure and temperature.