Today, the Earth is surrounded by a network of satellites providing not only Internet connectivity, but also supplying data crucial for navigation, positioning and weather forecasting. It is hard to imagine our modern world without such information. That is why Creotech Instruments S.A., Europe’s leading manufacturer of satellite systems and components, and advanced electronics dedicated to quantum computer control systems and other applications, plans to soon launch its own EagleEye observation satellite.
The years 2010-2019 saw 181 satellites launched annually, by 2029 this figure is poised to exceed one thousand (+ 459%). According to 2019 data published by the Satellite Industry Association, the satellite manufacturing segment is the fastest growing segment of the space market. Having reached USD 19.5 billion in value in 2018, the market saw increases 26% year-on-year compared with 2017.
“The global nano- and microsatellite market is growing faster and is gaining more and more prominence due to consistently growing demand for mobile connectivity. The growing popularity of low Earth orbit (LEO) services and higher demand from non-state actors for Earth Observation applications and satellite imagery will also have a bearing on this industry. According to the Space Foundation’s analysts, the market’s CAGR may come close to 25% in 2026,” says Jacek Kosiec, President of the Management Board of Creotech Instruments S.A.
According to The Space Report 2020, last year LEO deployments of communication satellites increased by 477%. Creotech Instruments’ Management Board believes that the market for satellite constellations will also grow as witnessed by the operations of SpaceX, Iceye, and Planet.
“An increasing number of companies are working on deploying entire constellations providing, for example, high-speed internet services. To cater to this demand, Creotech is developing the HyperSat satellite platform, which is designed for space missions performed by satellites weighing from 10 to 60 kg (with the option to rescale it to a mass of 120 kg in the future). This platform can be used for Earth observation, telecommunications development, and other applications,” explains Jacek Kosiec.
Polish space – predictions
The Polish space industry is growing since the establishment of the Polish Space Agency (POLSA) in 2014, and with the first Space Strategy being published three years later. As pointed out by the authors of the study entitled “Mid-term Scenarios for the Development of the Space Industry in Poland”, global estimates regarding the value of the space sector in 2030 range from USD 580bn to USD 1400bn. However, specific projections for the market in Poland are still unavailable. The only estimates of its value can be found in the Polish Space Strategy, which outlined that by 2030 the goal is to secure a 3% share of the European market in terms of value. The driving engine on the path to this threshold may be the achievement of another goal formulated in the same document: increasing the level of satellite data usage by the national public administration.
“Accurate and focused satellite data may expedite and facilitate many processes managed by the public administration. Such data can be used for spatial planning, monitoring changes related to environmental protection, climate change, pollution, to monitor the condition of forests, agricultural and fruit crops, or detect illegal waste dumps. Let’s not forget about the monitoring of air, rail, road, sea and inland shipping. Access to such a satellite infrastructure is also indispensable to cater to the needs of a modern state in terms of internal security and defense,” says Grzegorz Brona, PhD, Head of Business Development at Creotech Instruments S.A.
The Polish army starting showing first signs of interest in satellite techniques about 10 years ago, although at that time there were no plans to build or buy a military satellite of its own. These emerged around 2015 when the Military University of Technology (WAT), as a consortium leader, drafted a document specifying potential avenues for Poland’s acquisition of observation satellites.
Although analysts point to the ever-growing value of the global space sector, many relevant issues are still left unresolved in both Europe and Poland. One such issue is, for example, orbit use rights. In the past, there were instances where operators, faced with the lack of an automated satellite traffic control system, to avoid orbital collisions were forced to rely on manual processes and exchanging emails. Given the sheer growth in the number of satellites, potential collision situations are bound to reoccur and manual control may prove insufficient. Creotech Instruments S.A. partnered up with the Air Force Institute of Technology to develop an orbital laser system that will equip satellites with the capability to detect and avoid collisions with space debris, including the smallest ones that are difficult to detect from Earth.
Another barrier to the development of the market, including for private companies offering technologies for the space sector, is limited access to financing and shortage of educated employees.
“Compared with other sectors, the projects pursued in the space industry have a longer ROI horizon. This is a major obstacle in efforts to secure funding to develop technologies or products. In many cases obtaining financing from private equity or venture capital funds depends on the prior award of public subsidies. It is true that we initially received grants, which we invested in R&D, and subsequently secured support from the Industry Development Agency. We were thus able to expand our business to ultimately turn to private investors and conduct a public offering of shares. Soon we will join the ranks of public companies. We are also one of the first companies in the developing space sector that was able to generate not only turnover, but also consistently growing profit,” says Grzegorz Brona, PhD.
“The lack of staff with the appropriate background remains an issue, although the ingenuity and imagination of young scientists are very impressive. However, as the space industry in Poland is still in its nascent phase, they are unable to fully utilize their skills and interests.”
The budget of the European Space Agency (ESA) for 2020-2024 was approved in 2019. It stands at EUR 14.39 billion with Poland’s share in this pool amounting to EUR 166 million. May saw the launch of Europe’s second agency, the European Union Agency for the Space Program (EUSPA), with a budget of over a dozen billion EUR in the new financial perspective. The agency will be primarily tasked with supporting commercialization of EU space solutions. Europe has never before made such extensive investments in the development of the space sector.
On Friday 21 May, we will celebrate the International Space Day, established to commemorate the scientific contribution to the development of the industry, but also to inspire future generations to expand their knowledge of the universe.