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The Yearbook on Space Policy, edited by the European Space Policy Institute (ESPI), is the reference publication analysing space policy developments. Each year it presents issues and trends in space policy and the space sector as a whole. Its scope is global and its perspective is European. The Yearbook also links space policy with other policy areas. It highlights specific events and issues, and provides useful insights, data and information on space activities. The first part of the Yearbook sets out a comprehensive overview of the economic, political, technological and institutional trends that have affected space activities. The second part of the Yearbook offers a more analytical perspective on the yearly ESPI theme and consists of external contributions written by professionals with diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise. The third part of the Yearbook carries forward the character of the Yearbook as an archive of space activities. The Yearbook is designed for government decision-makers and agencies, industry professionals, as well as the service sectors, researchers and scientists and the interested public.



The Year in Space 2015


Chapter 1. European Space Activities in the Global Context

The United Nations Annual Report “World Economic Situation and Prospects” reported a slight stumble in global growth by the end of 2015, as the persistent effects of the financial crisis in 2007 continued to discourage investment and global growth. In mid-2015, the growth of World Gross Product (WGP) was estimated to be 2.8 %, yet weak aggregate demand, falling commodity prices and increasing financial market volatility in major economies resulted in a year-end revision of WGP growth to 2.4 %.
Cenan Al-Ekabi

Chapter 2. Developments in Space Policies, Programmes and Technologies Throughout the World and in Europe

The major space policy developments worldwide were presented in Chap. 1, above, to identify the principal space faring nations’ strategies in 2015. In the section below, there will be a brief discussion of developments in technology related areas, including policies and access to space technologies. The aim of this section is to clarify how these strategies interact with and influence specific space programmes, and related research and development projects.
Cenan Al-Ekabi

Views and Insights Edited by Arne Lahcen


Chapter 3. Issues and Perspectives on Space Launch Vehicles’ Development

The genesis of orbital launch vehicles finds its roots in the ballistic missiles developed in the 1950s by the United States and the Soviet Union. In the wake of the Cold War, the two superpowers transformed their missiles into space carrier rockets, and then plunged themselves into a frenetic race to the Moon. With the development of commercial space applications in the 1970s—first telecommunications, then Earth observation and meteorology and, finally, navigation—launchers evolved into an area of predominantly commercial battles fought over by both public and private operators. The interests of states remain, however, closely intertwined, with launchers ultimately serving as instruments of political sovereignty to ensure independent access to space, a prerogative, so far, of only a few great powers. Space carrier rockets are extremely complex systems requiring a seamless mastery of advanced technologies, including solid or liquid propulsion, pilotage and guidance, light structures, and automatic operations. Countries that decide to provide themselves with an indigenous launch capacity are fully aware of the long-term investments required and of the need to support an industry that has a limited market.
Jean-Marc Astorg

Chapter 4. Space at a Crossroads: Government Programmes Can Benefit from Commercial Space and Other Changes If Long-Standing Challenges Are Addressed

Government-built satellites provide vital capabilities to national security, government operations, the science community, and the economy. For many years, U.S. government-built satellites have paved the way in space technology advancements. They have also been expected to operate under harsher conditions than their commercial counterparts and to be much more secure, adding to the time and money it takes to develop, produce, and launch them. At the same time, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that government space programmes have also been characterised by large cost overruns and schedule delays. On top of inherent risks, agencies have faced many challenges in producing realistic estimates, adhering to high standards for quality, and employing sound programme management practices. As troubled space programmes have become less tolerable in times of growing fiscal pressures, the U.S. government is beginning to embrace the use of commercially built satellites as well as commercial-like business practices. While “going commercial” seems attractive, particularly given the rise of many new innovative suppliers, GAO’s work indicates that the U.S. government must overcome significant hurdles before it can successfully adopt new ways of procuring space capabilities.
Cristina T. Chaplain, Laura D. Hook

Chapter 5. Virgin Galactic: Creating Safe, Reliable, and Frequent Access to Space

Virgin Galactic, a privately funded company based in the United States of America, is on track to become the world’s first commercial spaceline. Virgin Galactic is currently developing SpaceShipTwo, a reusable suborbital vehicle that will reach space altitudes on frequent, affordable, and safe suborbital voyages. SpaceShipTwo is being designed both for human astronauts and for automated payloads, with customers ranging from tourists to researchers and educators.
Richard DalBello

Chapter 6. The Future of Satellite Applications: The End-User Perspective

Serving primarily geostrategic and military objectives, space has traditionally been the playground of political giants. But it was also a field for major scientific successes and technological breakthroughs. In the early days of the space age the benefits from space for citizens and the economy received less attention, although it is not that society did not reap massive benefits. Meteorology without space is now unthinkable. Military GPS gradually finding its way into the civilian world brought about remarkable change in how we move around and how we do business. And any textbook on space applications will rightfully praise the commercial success and pervasiveness of Satcoms.
Stefaan De Mey

Chapter 7. Efficient Access to Space: Implications for Space Astronomy

Space exploration has lasted for about half a century, and astronomical observations with space telescopes and other instruments have allowed us to understand the laws of the nature and the universe itself much deeper, wider and in ever greater detail. For example, many important and ground-breaking new phenomena and astronomical objects have been discovered by space astronomical observations, and two Nobel prizes in physics have been awarded to the results of space astronomical observations. However, access to space still remains very expensive, such that only a very limited number of space astronomical facilities with much contrived capabilities have been sent to space, in comparison to the numerous powerful experiments and observational facilities built on the ground. This certainly hinders our ability to further study the laws of nature and explore the universe.
Shuang-Nan Zhang

Chapter 8. Potentially Transformative Technologies for Twenty-First Century Space

Space as the discipline to demonstrate economic and political might and as military high ground has pushed human ingenuity into developing new concepts and technologies for the exploration and use of this fourth ‘space’, following land-, sea- and air-spaces. Driven by governmental ambitions and means, space agencies have developed the technologies that have made this new space accessible (chemical rockets), technologies to navigate in it (electric, chemical, nuclear and direct solar propulsion, position and trajectory determination), and to use its resources (e.g. photovoltaic cells). In doing so they have created new markets served by new industries. Some of these have already transitioned from governmental to private sector driven markets, starting with telecom applications in the 1990s. Stimulated by U.S. policy decisions in the early 2000s, the private sector has entered virtually all space domains except deep space exploration. Against this background the present paper attempts to explore potentially game changing technologies for space applications.
Leopold Summerer

Chapter 9. Big Data from Outer Space: Opportunities and Challenges for Crisis Response

Shortly after the earthquake that devastated Haiti in January 2010, Google and the satellite imagery provider GeoEye released images demonstrating the level of destruction inflicted by the disaster. These images helped those on the outside grasp the severe consequences of the earthquake, but more importantly the availability of high-resolution imagery yielded opportunities for humanitarian organisations in the aftermath of this disaster. The combination of geospatial information technologies such as remote sensing, satellite navigation, internet mapping technologies with crowdsourcing initiatives or machine-learning algorithms was used to draft crisis maps and to facilitate distribution of scarce resources in support of response teams on the ground.
Nina Witjes, Philipp Olbrich, Isabella Rebasso

Chapter 10. Some Ethical Constraints on Near-Earth Resource Exploitation

One of the most common and enduring justifications for space exploration is that resources are limited here but plentiful elsewhere. Exploration has the potential to enable humanity to access the vast store of resources throughout our solar system. Recent discussion (driven to some extent by U.S. legislation and by speculation about the future role of the private sector in space) has tended to focus on what we shall call “near-Earth resources” (NERs), which include those of the Moon and near-Earth asteroids (NEAs). They include: potentially vast stores of water, iron, and platinum-group metals among the NEA population; so-called ‘peaks of eternal light’, i.e. places of uninterrupted sunlight (for solar energy collection) and crater areas in more or less permanent darkness (able to harbour water ice) on the Moon; Helium-3 (He3) in the lunar regolith; and the relatively banal resource of terrestrial orbital niches. What is often lost in the enthusiasm concerning such NERs is that, in spite of the immensity of space, only a small percentage of the NEA population is profitably accessible in the absence of distant, futuristic technology; only so much of the lunar surface (or elevated areas just above it) is permanently illuminated (or shadowed); the He3 concentration in the lunar regolith is very low, geographically differentiated and reduces with depth (the regolith on asteroids is also likely to be less mature and so He3 concentration levels are likely to be even lower); and, as is already well-known, there are only so many available orbital allocations. These practical realities suggest that issues of sustainability will not vanish during at least the early stages of space exploitation, and perhaps at all stages for the foreseeable future. They do not support unrelenting and unregulated utilisation and consumption. In fact, quite the opposite.
James S. J. Schwartz, Tony Milligan

Chapter 11. Governance, Strategies and Approaches in 2030: “European Options”

Establishing the outlook for space activities in 2030 and outlining the public sector’s path to arriving there is a challenging task, essentially for two reasons.
Jesse Phaler

Chapter 12. The Economics of Launch Vehicles: Towards a New Business Model

For over 50 years, the economics of satellite launchers has reflected the military and strategic interests of government customers. Launcher economics have generally been shaped by explicit or implicit subsidies and a range of market distortions. This business model is now under threat from new entrants offering to undercut established players. While this challenge may be in some degree more illusory than real, there is sufficient novelty in the new approach to disturb established launch service providers. A more disruptive threat is possibly on the far horizon of innovation. There is the prospect—although highly problematic at this stage—of a fully-fledged technological transformation in accessing space. Radically new technologies could revolutionise the economics of space operations—the equivalent of the jet engine’s impact on air travel.
Keith Hayward

Facts and Figures


Chapter 13. Chronology: 2015

All launch dates are calculated using Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), hence the date at the launch site may differ from the date listed here by 1 day.
Cenan Al-Ekabi, Arne Lahcen

Chapter 14. Bibliography of Space Policy Publications 2015

Al-Ekabi C (ed) (2015) European autonomy in space. Springer, Wien
Blandina Baranes


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