From an outsider perspective, the golden age of space might look behind us with the Apollo era in the Sixties. Yet, when we listen to some new economy entrepreneurs like R. Branson (Virgin group founder), J. Bezos (Amazon founder) or E. Musk (Paypal, TeslaMotors, Solarcity founder), space is accessible, ready to harvest and the space rush starts today!
Even if the Silicon Valley ecosystem aims for the stars, technical hurdles might prevent all projects to succeed. Therefor, being able to put a satellite in orbit and land the launcher or to reach multiple times the space frontier with a same launcher really are impressive. These newsworthy successes also attract an increasing number of investors: $2.9B between 2000 and 2015 of which $1.8B in 2015 only.
A disruption is on its way powered by deep mutations in the sector making old dreams now plausible like constellation and reusable launchers. In one hand, national space agencies now focus more on their advising roles. In the other hands, it gets easier to access existing resources and infrastructures.
Incumbents reassure their averse-to-risk customers by producing a low number of expensive high-end custom designs with a big emphasis on quality to ensure high lifespans.
Newcomers promise resilience thanks to distributed infrastructures of a higher number of low cost satellites (using off the shelf components). To do so, these pioneers use design to test approaches directly inspired from start-ups. They ‘hack’ technologies from other sectors with a ‘maker’ spirit and collect information from the ground with each generation of their products in a pure MVP mindset. First users of their own products, they make sure that the infrastructure they build is user centric and not technology centric. Doing so, they enable the next generation of space entrepreneurs to build new space applications (a few of which that might look like science fiction).
Elon Musk’s project to build a martian colony will be build on these layers. His firm, SpaceX, looks like it is a step ahead the competition with its full logbook, its tremendous technological achievements and its soon-to-be vertical integration in space with a constellation. Nevertheless, there are a few technical hurdles for them to pass like designing a powerful enough rocket or proving its ability to get to Mars and come back.
Our conviction is that, alone, they probably won’t be able to gather the resources to build from scratch a sustainable colony with safe housing, adapted food production and low consuming ressources processes. When we see all the current benefits of the previous space programs, we are convinced that actors who will address these issues will be a step ahead to reap the fruits of the space conquest on their historical markets.