Even since the launching of Sputnik in 1957, media attention has focused almost exclusively on spectacular space missions such as the landing of Apollo on the Moon in 1969 or, more recently, the stunning pictures transmitted from Mars by Mars Pathfinder in 1997 and Spirit in 2004. However, space actors have also faced their fair share of setbacks, including dramatic failures such as the Columbia tragedy, extravagant cost overruns, grossly unfulfilled promises and painful reductions in public support to space ventures.
But space is more than a showroom where nations can display their technological proficiency. Over the years, advances in space technologies have led to the development of increasingly sophisticated military and civil space assets offering a growing number of space-based services, ranging from communication, remote sensing and earth observation services to navigation and location-based services. While military space assets have gained strategic prominence in the arsenals of space-faring nations, the services provided by civil space assets are having an increasing impact on our daily life, even if we are not always aware of it.
Where is the space sector heading up now? What are the obstacles to its further development? What are its future prospects? What are the applications that are likely to be successful in the future?
To answer these questions, this report adopted a scenario-based approach to explore the future evolution of major components of the space sector (military space, civil space, commercial space) over the next thirty years, taking into account four major factors of change: geopolitical developments, socio-economic developments, energy and the environment and technology. This provides the basis for assessing the prospects of a number of space applications, taking into account expected progress in technologies such as microelectronics, nanotechnology or robotics as well as space technologies.
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Space 2030: Tackling Society's Challenges