Opportunities for the private sector

For decades in the United States, aerospace has been an expensive project for the state and its agencies like NASA. As suppliers of technologies, private companies were part of the programmes from the beginning. For example, Boeing was involved in the development and construction of the Saturn V rockets in the sixties. In the meantime, private companies are making more use of market opportunities related to commercial and state aerospace than back then:

  • as suppliers and producers of aerospace vehicles
  • as suppliers and producers of satellites
  • as suppliers and producers of ground-based equipment
  • as handlers of rocket launches and transporters of loads into space
  • as service providers and operators of satellites
  • as users of satellite data and other satellite-supported services

While industrial companies have played a critical role as hardware suppliers for a long time now, there has been a shift in the distribution of roles for the handling of launches and thus the transport of loads into space in recent years. Besides the state agencies such as NASA in the United States or the ESA in Europe, various private companies are also active in the competition. For example, the company SpaceX founded by Elon Musk is now a market leader in satellite launches and is engaged by NASA for supply flights to the International Space Station (ISS) and the building of a spaceship for manned trips into space (Faz.net, 2018). However, ground-based satellite technology is also dominated by private suppliers which, for example, produce satellite dishes for television reception.

Both state institutions and private companies use satellites and offer corresponding services. Governments use espionage satellites and provide position data (GPS); television stations offer satellite transmission; telecommunications operators make satellite connections available. Satellite-supported internet connections are spreading, above all in areas with poor terrestrial or mobile infrastructure, to facilitate access to global data networks. Innovative satellite-based data can be used for data-based services. An example of this is the satellite-supported analysis of agricultural land for the farming industry. Traffic situations and infrastructure disruptions can be viewed from space; position services become more accurate and additional paths of communication are available. Space services can also contribute to the development of internet-based industrial offers and become a part of Industry 4.0.