Strategic assets for spacefaring nations
Independent access to space not only depends on being autonomous in terms of technology and infrastructure (i.e., the industrial base and spaceports). With new market entrants increasing competition on launch costs, independent access to space is now also dependent on the economic sustainability of the launch sector.
New industrial setups and practices, as well as modularity or innovative technologies, such as micro-launchers and reusable rockets, will drive the competitiveness of the launch sector.
Growing competition on the open launch market
Competition in the launch sector has traditionally been between fully or partially state-owned industries. As the delivery of certain payloads is important to the national security of launching countries, a significant part of launch services is not open to private companies. On the open market, newly created private companies and non-historical spacefaring nations have been disrupting the established norms. As a result of the increasing competition, spacefaring nations have promoted their domestic launch systems through dedicated policies and measures, and also pushed their national companies to improve or develop new launch vehicles.
Innovation as a strategic advantage
Launcher integrators and launch service providers are aiming at expanding their scope of activities through innovation and vertical and horizontal integration. Technological innovations, such as partial or full launcher reusability, methane propulsion or additive layer manufacturing, are expected to bring a strategic advantage on the launch market. In addition, business model innovations, such as sharing the risks of satellite launches with operators, are also being reviewed by launch companies.
Launch companies need to increase their customer base
Despite being subsidised by governments due to its strategic importance, the launch sector is expected to face stable or declining government financing for flagship space programmes. As a consequence, launch companies will have to evolve and examine new markets. Historical launcher manufacturers and their associated service providers are considering new kinds of services, such as using micro-launchers for the flexible delivery of small satellites deployed as part of large satellite constellation programmes.