European space ecosystem leaders shared their visions for the future of the sector at a panel hosted on day one of the Summer Space Festival on 5 May.
Hosted at Neimenster Abbey, the panel was part of a series of talks, workshops and a trade fair aimed at promoting space and STEM careers to the general public and to younger generations.
The space economy reached $424b in 2022, according to Euroconsult, driven largely by space-based end-user apps, Earth observation and satellite navigation, which make up 83% of its primary value.
If the past is anything to go by, the future will see the sector employ ever larger numbers of people. Ernst Messerschmid, former ESA astronaut, said that over the past 30 years, the number of people working full-time on space activities doubled every decade to reach 30,000. “It shows how dynamic the sector is,” he said.
The workforce is becoming increasingly diverse as the industry expands into areas such as space resources exploitation. Director of the European Space Resources Innovation Centre in Luxembourg, Dr Kathryn Hadler, said: “Space resources is a multi disciplinary sector. We need miners, chemical engineers in addition to physicists and material scientists. These are the people who come up with the ideas that will use space resources in the future.”
Christelle Astorg Lepine, managing director of aerospace innovation accelerator Starburst France, credited much of the new space innovations for launchers and satellites to private space startups. While she said that “data is the new oil”, Euroconsult estimates that segments such as manufacturing, launch services and the ground segment will drive value chain growth to $100 billion by 2031.
This is positive news for scale-ups like ispace, a space robotics firm which has developed a lunar rover for probing resources to be used in space exploration. “There’s never been a better time to work for the space industry, join a startup whether you are a lawyer, business person or engineer,” ispace Europe managing director Julien Lamamy said.
While ispace is listed on the Tokyo stock exchange, not all scale-ups are so fortunate and raising finance for space activities remains challenging.
“Investors have a hard time understanding space and space technology. It’s hard to explain what’s the business model behind this technology,” said former ESA astronaut Franz Viebock.
Students on space
During the first day of the festival, students from a handful of local schools had the chance to meet employers and learn more about job opportunities in the space sector.
Imogen, who is studying at the Lycée Vauban and will take part in a zero gravity experience as part of the astronaut for a day organised to mark the Luxembourg Space Agency’s fifth anniversary, said she wanted to be an astronaut since a young age. “Personally, I now want to become an astrophysicist and I always found that space is fascinating. There’s so much that we don’t know and I want to learn more,” she said.
Enrico, a student at the International School in Differdange attended the event to pursue a passion for space entrepreneurship which began when he read Elon Musk’s autobiography. He told Silicon: “Since Musk was young he read science fiction and it is the ideas from these books that he is adopting now […] So believe in science fiction because the future is not tomorrow. It’s happening right now. We are in it!”