Friday, 19 April 2024
In Spain we have first-rate talent, world-class academic and research institutions, and a solid industry with a great ability to compete at an international level”
Space Transportation is undergoing a metamorphosis process. The demand for launch services is growing exponentially across the globe and, still, Europe is far from being capable of satisfying it. For the first time in over 40 years we are facing a possible scenario where Europe has zero capacity to access space. These are not good news for anyone. This uncertain future requires stern decisions and demands change in the system that has dominated this side of the pond from its very inception.
During last November’s Space Summit, the first few agreements were signed that put on paper that ‘intent’ to start traversing the path towards a model where the United States is more than a decade ahead of us. In addition to signing ‘major agreements’ to ensure the immediate European ability of accessing space, we are at a turning point in regard to the role of international agency funding and the growing capabilities of national agencies, with wide-ranging programs.
It has been made clear that the use of resources when it comes to launch vehicles has not been based on criteria focused on competitiveness. This structure, which worked in the past, collides with the dynamism of a vast majority of new companies of the sector which, despite having been forced to seek funding outside the traditional structure, have been able to react to the unforeseen circumstances that are inherent to an ever-changing industry and move at a speed that they would never have been able to attain from within the system itself.
The truth is that this problem offers us the perfect excuse and Seville was the setting that was chosen to overhaul the modulus operandi of traditional European space transportation. The European Space Agency (ESA) publicly demonstrated its trust in small launch vehicle companies as essential players in the streamlining of a model that is not serving the needs of the clients. Taking into account new sector stakeholders as a way to complement ESA’s offering with a different type of launch vehicle is something that we must value. And in this new context, Spain will find an opportunity.
PLD Space will be competing in the European challenge with a launch vehicle entirely designed, developed and manufactured in our country. The successful test flight of our demonstrator, MIURA 1, makes it clear that we have the ability to do it and, more remarkably, that we can do so while staying within the costs demanded by the market.
But if we want Spain to play a leading role rather than being merely a spectator in this paradigm, implementing the current national strategy for space is paramount. There is no doubt that space will transform the way in which the value chains of all industries operate, with an impact on par with the advent of internet in the 90s. The creation and implementation of the Spanish Space Agency implies a significant milestone, but now we need a roadmap as a country that enables Spain to take part of this exclusive world order.
We already have the most important element: a first technology that has proven its ability to provide that much-sought access to space; we have the capability of sitting down at the table of the great world powers and sell our system. We cannot let this opportunity slip past us. The time to start over is now.
In Spain we are lucky enough to count with other highly competitive pillars that can support this space strategy and, together, lead it to success. We have first rate talent, world-class academic and research institutions, and a solid industry with a great ability to compete at an international level. Once this entire ecosystem works hand-inhand and counts with the support of institutions and administrations, it will be able to achieve success in a sector as complex as space.
This transmutation process is intrinsic to PLD Space. During our 12 years of existence we have learned to adapt, pivot, try and fail, and keep trying. The launch of MIURA 1 has helped us obtain highly valuable feedback to be applied to the model of our new orbital rocket MIURA 5.
Now, our challenge consists of building and establishing a supply chain that enables us to advance in the creation of a space launch vehicle production industry. An endeavor that relies on vertical integration and will lead us to develop certain parts down to a component level, which we would outsource in the past. Only this way will we be able to guarantee an autonomous launch capability that is not reliant on third parties. It is the time to start over for all of us.
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