The space sector is going through something of a transformation, shifting from the 'old space' of government organisations and a handful of larger companies to a democratisation of the sector, where startups are seeking to commercialise on opportunities that have opened up in pursuit of the exploration and utilisation of space. So what of the future of space? And how can aspiring entrepreneurs enter the market?
Spaceoneers attended the third event for 'Science: Disrupt' on the topic of "Future Space". Held at Entrepreneur First, a London-based startup accelerator a mix of entrepreneurs, investors and business makers discussed the opportunities available in the space sector.
Moderating the event was Anushka Sharma representing Disrupt Space. She spoke of how it wants to act as a global hub as it seeks to connect top entrepreneurs with decision makers to solve today's challenges using space technologies. It will host the second instalment of the Disrupt Space Summit in March 2017, in the city of Bremen, Germany.
Among the speakers was James Bruegger from Seraphim Capital who presented how they are supporting startups with financial capital with the 'world’s first venture fund to focus on space'. They are currently managing a £50 million fund supported by world-leading space and aerospace companies, as well as a £30 million fund by business angels in the UK and US. Space is seen as a high-growth sector with great potential – now is a 'time of radical changes within the sector'.
He spoke about the economics of space and how it is a "once-in-a-generation game changer". Space is now an order of 100 times cheaper as launch costs have reduced considerably, technologies have become smaller, lighter and more sophisticated, and as a result access to space has never been cheaper. 'In the 1990s it was all about low-cost personal computing. In the 2000s this shifted to low-cost cloud computing.' Now in the 2010s space is now accessible and for venture capitalists it is therefore an attractive area of investment.
Conor O'Sullivan from Satellite Applications Catapult spoke of how it is connecting business to research and end users, as well as providing them with world-class facilities to innovate space technologies. He also highlighted the ease of access to space, together with the huge activity in small satellites (small sats). Space has many applications which are seeing high-growth, as diverse as carbon monitoring, maritime, agriculture, finance, insurance, mining, natural disaster response and humanitarian aid. "There's never been a better time to start a space business."
Satellite Applications Catapult has recently opened its ‘In-Orbit Demonstration (IOD) Programme’ that offers a fast, low-cost testbed to trial a business service on a cubesat launched from the International Space Station (ISS). Open to any company that can demonstrate a clear route to market and service provision it seeks to make in-space demonstration more affordable.
The final speaker was Rafael Jorda Siquier, Founder & CEO of Open Cosmos, which is seeking to optimise the process of satellite development. They want to mass customise satellites, making space access simple and affordable. They say they will manage all the processes in between – “Focus on your data or payload, we take care of the rest”.
Following their talks, the floor was opened to the audience to ask questions. Asked what lessons Europe and London can learn from Silicon Valley, one panellist stressed: "F**k Silicon Valley - London has everything you need to be a successful startup."
Indeed the new space sector is emerging in Europe. The foundation has been laid in terms of access to space and the market potential is huge. The future of space is a bright one. Spaceoneers aims to bring the latest news and developments as we connect with the space pioneers who are shaping the sector.