Definition of the space sector. Broadly defined, the space sector includes all public and private actors involved in the provision of space-enabled products and services. They are part of a long value-adding chain that starts upstream with the manufacturers of space hardware (e.g. launch vehicles, satellites, earth stations) and ranges downstream to the providers of space-enabled products (e.g. GPS-based car navigation systems) and services (e.g. satellite-based meteo services or direct to home video services) to final users.
Main space applications. Over the years, the range of civilian space applications has increased significantly. Three main types of space applications currently dominate the space business and will continue to do so in the medium term: telecommunications, earth observation and positioning and navigation systems.
Telecommunications. It is currently the most important and the most dynamic market for space applications. It includes fixed telecommunications services (voice, data, internet, multimedia); broadcasting (TV and radio services, video services, internet content); mobile services (data, voice, internet, multimedia, digital radio). Originally conceived with limited coverage and to serve a limited number of professional users, satellite communication systems are evolving towards large regional or global coverage.
Earth Observation. Earth Observation (EO) helps to measure and monitor the Earth's climate and environment, and to map its resources. Following in the pioneering footsteps of meteorology, the field of application of EO is extending to a growing number of domains, including agriculture, resource management, exploration, mapping and planning, hazard monitoring and disaster assessment (landslides, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods and droughts) as well as security, defence and the enforcement of international agreements.
Positioning and Navigation. The use of satellites for localisation and navigation purposes is rapidly expanding. The implementation of GPS has allowed the development of a growing number of applications (air transport, maritime transport, land transport, localisation of isolated individuals) and provides as well a universal referential time and location standard for a number of systems. In the coming years, the European civilian Galileo system will complement GPS.
Problematique. Significant benefits have been derived for society at large from these applications and further progress could be achieved in the coming decades. However, the future of the sector looks bleak. Notably, the development of commercially viable applications has proved very difficult. As a result, both the industry and the financial community are hesitant to embark upon the development of a good many potentially promising applications. This situation is leading a number of countries already active in space to reassess their overall space strategy. Many of them are facing difficult choices, in particular on the overall level of effort that should be devoted to space, on how that effort should be allocated, and on the role that could be expected of the private sector. Moreover, there is a growing feeling among experts that the policy and regulatory frameworks that currently govern space activities are unlikely to be able to meet the challenges of the future or to provide the necessary support to the further development of the commercial space sector.
Purpose of the Project
The purpose of the Futures Project on the Commercialisation of Space and the Development of Space Infrastructure is to address some of these challenge. More specifically, its main objectives are
1.To provide an assessment of the long term prospects of the sector over the next thirty years or so, and the key factors that are likely to shape its evolution;
2.To examine what new promising applications may come on stream over that period;
3.To identify the conditions required for such applications to emerge, including possible changes in existing space infrastructure and the deployment of new space infrastructure;
4.To draw implications regarding the supportive measures that could be put in place to foster their development, including new and innovative forms of public/private partnerships; and
5.To identify what measures governments could take so as to provide a policy, legal and regulatory framework that is better suited to the development of new commercial applications.
The OECD is well placed to conduct such a project. First, most of the key players in the sector are in the OECD area. Second, space applications extend to an increasingly broad range of activities where OECD Governments have a major responsibility. Third, the OECD provides advice to its Member Countries on a wide range of policy issues that have an important bearing on the future evolution of the space sector. Finally, within the OECD, the Advisory Unit is well equipped to carry out a Project in this area because of its expertise in conducting long-term policy analysis on complex emerging issues and also because of its demonstrated ability to establish a fruitful dialogue between public and private actors.
Scope and Time Frame. The Project will take into consideration commercial applications as well as those civilian applications of a public nature that contribute to the development of space infrastrucuture. Moreover, both the upstream and downstream segments of the value chain will be considered.
Future as well as existing applications will be considered, including applications coming to fruition in the short and medium term. For each application to be considered, an appropriate timeframe will be adopted that takes into account the period over which the application is expected to develop as well as the various phases (short, medium and long term) in such development.
Financing and Management.
As other OECD Futures Projects in the past, the Futures Project on the Commercialisation of Space and the Development of Space Infrastructure is mostly financed by grants and voluntary contributions by public and private organisations participating in the Project. These include main actors in the space sector, actual and potential users of space-based products and services -- whether they are public or private -- as well as agencies or ministries that have responsibility for policy areas where space-based applications could provide effective policy tools. Non-OECD stakeholders could also be invited on an ad hoc basis, if OECD participants in the Project agree..
Participants in the Project are entitled to nominate representatives to the Steering Group that will be set up to provide overall advice to the Project Team, the number of seats for each country being limited in order to avoid over-representation. Overall, the Steering Group will be composed of approximately thirty-five high-ranking experts and decision-makers from public and private entities contributing financially to the Project.
A Project Team will be set up within the OECD Advisory Unit to carry out the Project. The Team will be directly responsible for preparing the Project's report, including its main conclusions and recommendations. Team members will also prepare background papers, supervise work commissioned to outside consultants and seek input from other OECD Directorates who have responsibilities in policy areas that may have an important bearing on the future development of space-based applications.
The Steering Group will advise the Project Team on the formulation of a more detailed Project development strategy, and comment on interim drafts as well as on the final report and its recommendations. It is envisaged that around four meetings of the Steering Group will be convened during the course of the Project.