According to the somewhat recently (things are moving too fast these days) published national Austrian Space Strategy report (if you want to check it out you can find it HERE) these are the 10 trends of the space sector for 2030 and beyond — with some comments from my side.
1. Augmented Satellite-based Navigation Systems
This trend will be driven mostly by the development of autonomous systems with my bet being on the automotive industry as the main driver and most in need of better positioning precision.
2. Commercial Satellite Imagery-based Systems
The need for fast, reliable and frequent (short pass over times) satellite imagery has been obvious recently (i.e. Ukraine) and the trend seems to continue.
You can hardly talk about “intelligence”(no matter the field) without mentioning satellite imagery.
3. High-throughput Satellite Communication Services
Half of the world has access to the Internet. The question is how do we connect the remaining half. Space will be the main development driver in this area in the years to come.
4. Space Tourism/Commercial Spaceflight
With three private space stations on the drawing board, the ISS scheduled for retirement and considering how busy SpaceX and Blue Origin are, this trend is quite obvious.
It’s just a question of how big this market can get.
5. Satellites in Commercial Aviation
Here I see mainly two development directions: navigation and on-board connectivity.
6. 3D Printing in Space Applications
I think it’s difficult to talk about a real “space economy” without mentioning additive manufacturing. Here I would mention both for on-ground and in-orbit use.
On ground: 3D printing might be the only solution for true scaling, e.g. mega constellations and launchers.
In-orbit: we already see the need for larger structures (e.g. antenna reflectors, solar arrays, telescope mirrors and, why not, habitats). For these large structures the curent way of sending stuff to space is not efficient anymore. 3D printing and in-orbit assembly might just be the solution.
7. Reusable Launch Vehicles for Cost-efficient Space Logistics
I think here one of the major milestones is “full reusability” (not only the first stage) and there are already some companies working on this.
8. All-electric Propulsion Systems for Satellites
I would bet on electric propulsion for interplanetary travel (Mars at least). That unless we make some space fuel stations on Moon orbit (that could work as well, I guess).
9. Small-satellite Clusters Replacing Large Satellites
All reports lately seem to agree on this point: the 200 kg to 500 kg satellite class is the new cool kid on the block that every one wants to befriend.
I would also add that besides the trend in size reduction there is also the trend of replacing those large GEO satellites with small satellite mega constellations closer to Earth.
This is also possible due to advancements and optimization of inter-satellite linking (e.g. optical communications) allowing the replacement of GEO satellites by layered constellations (LEO + MEO).
10. Robotic Servicing Technologies for Space Applications
This is highly connected to point 6 above, but there’s a lot going on in this area.
Just to mention some keywords: in-orbit refueling, in-orbit inspection, active debris removal, solar-based power stations, in-orbit manufacturing, in-orbit assembly, etc.
I would be very interested to see your opinion regarding this list.
What would you add? What would you delete?