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Why go into space for commercial reasons?  It might have been clear from 1956 to 1969, however today many are skeptical and question the economic drivers?  So far all the satellite and robotic probes have shown no other civilization exist in this Galaxy except planet Earth.

 The questions are numerous, as many believe that a historical economic shift is in the making.  Has China become the key driver for space commerce with its recent satellite and space launches?  If so, will China or India be able to sustain the momentum of Space Commerce that was once the sole technological and economic power of the United States to develop space commerce business-models?  Will this be the historical moment of a shift in technology and economic power from Russia, European Union, and America to Asia?  The key question might be; namely, can Asia effectively evolve and develop viable space commercial markets? 

The Vision and the Reality of Space Commerce

Science and technology are the key core engines that drive economic and social prosperity.  Economist and social reformers have affirmed that global poverty comes from a lack of science and technology.  The commercial space age was born in 1965 when Early Bird,or Intelsat I, the first commercial communications satellite, went into orbit.  John McLucas wrote in “Space Commerce-Frontiers in Space” that Space Commerce relates the story of private enterprise's unsteady rise to prominence as a major influence on world space policy and research.  The first space race, which was an ideological struggle against capitalism by the Former Soviet Union, proved the technological and military prowess of two superpowers; namely, Russia and America.  Since the 1970s, the superpowers struggle has been replaced by a multinational political and economic strategy to command any Space commercial opportunities.  Current research studies have concluded that global markets are increasingly vital for the Aerospace and Defense industry, in terms of access to markets, capital, labor, and technology.  Globalization has also changed the way companies do business and conceive of market opportunities.  Multinational companies are increasingly willing to look at unusual alliances and take on risks that were previously deemed unacceptable. The 2014 (National Sky Research) NSR Report estimated that global High Thru-put Satellite (HTS) demand would reach about 190 Gbps in 2018 out of a worldwide supply of 425 Gbps. Now in its latest market size estimate in the Global Assessment of Satellite Supply & Demand 10th Edition study, NSR projects that global HTS demand will hit 451 Gbps in 2018 on a supply of 1.6 Tbps. And this is independent from the separate MEO-HTS market vertical – constellations such as O3b Networks – that could add another 67 Gbps of global demand on about 240 Gbps of MEO-HTS supply in 2018. “What has changed in the last several years is the breath of applications and services that are now being targeted for HTS and MEO-HTS capacity”, notes Patrick M. French, NSR Senior Analyst and the report author. French adds that “however impressive the satellite industry’s rush to develop the HTS market, it is less the Gbps of demand that are important than the dollars in revenues that these new services are expected to generate.” According to NSR's 2012 report, the global satellite industry should launch satellites worth collectively over $250 USD billion over the next 15 years.  NSR expects over 1,600 satellites will be launched by 2025.  However in an earlier 2009 Space Security Report stated, “The shape of the commercial space industry is beginning to shift as it becomes more global.  Once dominated by the US, Europe, and Russia, other countries, in particular India and China, are now getting involved.”

Economic and Political Opportunities

Today Space Commerce consists of two broad categories; namely, a satellite chariot of information and space exploration using unmanned and manned vehicles.  The Office of Space Commercialization, U.S. Department of Commerce, outlined four commercial space segments—space transportation, satellite communications, GPS, and remote sensing—contributed $80.47 billion to the global economy in the year 2000, involving more than 500,000 jobs in the United States alone.  In 2001, each of those four segments was in different stages of maturity.  In 2008, Phillip Olla, author of Commerce in Space, wrote “Over the next decade, significant technological advancements and policy implementations are planned to each of the five space infrastructures, (telecommunication, positioning and navigation, broadcasting, earth observation, and tourism) creating new opportunities for information technology.”  Today’s reality of  Space Commerce truly encompasses John McLucas’s 1991 vision as “the construction of communications satellites and their ground control stations; the sale and leasing of communications services; remote sensing and measurement of earth's processes; (GPS) navigation by satellites, serving ships, airplanes, and automobiles; the design and deployment of space laboratories for scientific research and product development; and life science experiments to determine the effects of space habitation on humans.”   The OECD report, “Space 2030”, listed fifteen categories of Space Commerce applications. 

Space Chariots of Information

Asia was an early adopter of using satellite communications.  Today, the global commercial satellite continues to explode in growth.  In the world of satellite broadband video, data, and voice are experiencing new dimensions of services.  VSAT technology continues to be in play.  Alex Saltman, Executive Director, Commercial Spaceflight Federation answered a key question; namely, “is there is a killer app out there and we don’t get to know exactly what it is?  Well, we know what one of them is, and that is communications satellites.  That has been a hugely successful commercial space business.  Unfortunately, right now, it is the only really hugely successful commercial space business.”

Arunas Slekys, Vice President of Corporate Marketing and GM Hughes Network Systems, spoke that “the KA band High-Through-Put (HTP) Satellites are the platforms of the new broadband based commercial satellite networks. The first communication satellites were meant to cover huge beams, or beams covering a continent more or less, and then delivering services usually as a carriage, as a big pipe kind of like video from the Seoul Olympics to Europe, the US, and other locations.  But now KA is adopting an architecturally model that’s very much like cellular where you’ve got pointed beams and you’re targeting some smaller market area and you can then reuse frequencies. Because the beams are geographically separate, these beams do not interfere and so we can reuse frequencies and we get this multiplication of capacity. In 2013, we have sophisticated phased array antennas, we can direct power, and we can increase lower power, whatever.  We can do many things to reach that target market, and if it changes, we can shift it.  Therefore, we have abilities to move frequencies around different beams.  For example, our latest (high throughput technology)  Jupiter KA band satellite that we launched last October has about 60 beams on it covering the (CONUS)  and about eight of them in Canada.  With this sort of architecture, and with the capacity overall being well over 100 gigabytes a second, we are able to achieve somewhere north of a million to a million and a half subscribers on that satellite.  So the KA (band)  phenomenon is a game changer in the broadband satellite world because it’s bringing more capacity and in a way that can be more targeted to reach customers, therefore creating more opportunities for more plans and higher speed plans.”

Asia Pacific has a different service model compared to the U.S. households are spread out and there is the ability to pay for expanded broadband services.  India has one of the largest and fastest growing economies in the world.  Unfortunately, it is also one of the poorest countries in the world.  The main reason for this is the very large population that the country has.  There has been strong growth in recent years as the government has made a concerted effort to improve the economic strength of the nation.  There is however still a long way to go.  There have certainly been areas of improvement but it has been very uneven.  The result is a country in which there is a large high tech sector while at the same time a large percentage of the population is still engaged in traditional small-scale farming.  Slekys of Hughes gave India as an example of adapting the commercial satellite services model and stated that, “For example, in India we’ve implemented these, we call them fusion kiosks, which is an interesting model of the grass roots business development where store owners in small towns and villages participate in a tender that the government now has launched.  The goal of India’s government goal is to bring about 250,000 of these communities broadband satellite, so they have this small tender where the shop owners compete and then operators like Hughes and a few others deliver connectivity to these people, and then they sell it on a pay-as-you-go basis.  So essentially they create little Internet cafes or shared resource cafes in their stores and people come with their rupees and they download some software for training.”

Alex Saltman, spoke that “in India’s case, they have looked for a niche that they could do well in, launch a small satellite, and they have provided that opportunity.  There are now, for example, in a small launch, there are now (Indian) launchers that are essentially complete now, or at least pretty close.”

In Asia Pacific’s rural areas, according to Arunas Slekys it is a natural progression for reaching customers because they cannot afford a single connection themselves individually.  Therefore, it has to be, by definition, some shared model.  What is great for the government is that once they have this shop owner or (another small business owner) delivering the local broadband service, they can also then deliver their e-Government services.  The customer can print birth certificates, they can issue documents, and they can connect people with banks that need some financing or support to buy a tractor so they can be more productive.  Well, today, if you do that with broadband, which is more appropriate and makes sense these days because you do business on the Internet, the ratio is 10% increase in broadband connectivity translates into somewhere north of 1.2% increase in GDP per capita.  So if you look at that, which is a compelling business case, virtually anywhere.  KA is appearing in Asia Pacific, likely Australia and moving up north to the other countries, Malaysia, Indonesia and so on.  India is an interesting case if you include that because they are deliberating on privatizing that whole satellite market, the satellite business.” 

Bruce R Elbert, President of Application Technology Strategy Inc. and formerly senior Vice President of Application Systems of Hughes Space and Communications International spoke, “Thaicom made a bold move into high throughput satellites almost before anybody else did, but certainly as a leader in doing that, with something called IP Star.  IP Star exists, it has been in operation for some time, it has customers across several Asian countries, and these are satellite broadband customers.  However, they bought that satellite technology not in Asia but outside Asia.”

The expansion of trade in the Asia Pacific region will definitely call for more space-based resources.  Unlike Europe and the US, there are not land-based resources that can really encompass all the regions.  However, the Asia Pacific Market is still not consumer drive and the majority of satellite broadband commercial users are large enterprises in Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, and India.  New Asia Pacific satellite commercial application markets are emerging such as digital cinema, lottery networks, ATMs, school networks, e-Health, Airplane in-flight TV and Internet, Ship Navigation, and Satellite Inventory tracking .  Bruce Elbert commented on Chinese satellite technology, “In terms of communications satellites, China is nowhere near what Europe and the US are doing, and their track record is not very good as far as the liability of those satellites.  China has a long way to go before they can be a serious (communication satellite) player.”

Saltman said, “There are a lot of people looking into what’s the next (killer space commerce application) one, and some people think that it will be space tourism and so they’re offering suborbital flights.  Some people think that satellites will be providing other sorts of (cloud service by satellite) data services from space, earth observation, dedicated communications lines, logistic through space, satellite refueling and reuse.  There are as many different ideas out there as there are companies, and it seems like there is a new company every day.  What is exciting about the industry is that some of those companies are going to work out what the winning formula is, and then we will all know.”

What Satellite Communication business model that did not work in Asia Pacific?  Ebert spoke, “You could certainly mention ProtoStar as a company if you needed something that didn’t work out because they didn’t have all the pieces together.  On the other hand, the ones that have worked out are ASIASTAR, APSTAR, or APT, you can put Asia Broadcast Satellite (ABS) in there…and Thaicom as good examples.  They are not started by governments but solid commercial space ventures.”

Cloud Computing by Satellites

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