Space activity in the 21st Century is a partnership between exploration and utilization: a partnership that creates new knowledge simultaneously with new opportunities. The knowledge and experience we have established through six decades of space exploration forms the basis for a number of applications useful in other industry sectors. There are many examples of how space technology advances are both contributing to and benefitting from technology development in high-tech terrestrial industries, a theme that defines the main purpose of the SpaceCom Exposition. One can identify similarities in the challenges faced by space and areas like transportation, medicine, energy, communications and advanced manufacturing. On the transportation front, one area worth highlighting, especially important to Houston, is the potential for co-development and intellectual partnership between space and maritime activities. There are multiple strands connecting space and ocean, creating new opportunities for the offshore, shipping and subsea industries. There are both hardware and software options for this partnership.
Exploration in extreme environments, whether in deep ocean or deep space, by its very nature requires technological solutions that enable humans to operate in hostile circumstances, in environments where we don’t belong. Autonomous and semi-autonomous operations, human-robot interfaces, high-efficiency low-resource technologies, logistic and operational control and many other operational factors are important in both regimes and as a consequence many of the solutions translate between them. Companies are taking advantage of this commonality to devise dual-use or scalable technologies that provide solutions or address a challenge in more than one regime.
Moreover, the application of the rich array of modern Earth remote sensing data has the potential to revolutionize businesses, including those focused on maritime and port operations, what is frequently referred to as The Blue Economy. The Earth’s oceans are constantly being observed from space through a multitude of lenses. High-resolution imaging, hyperspectral observations, RADAR, and LIDAR, together with geolocation, automatic identification and tracking capabilities are providing advance tools for science, situational awareness, environmental monitoring, transmodal logistics and operational control. The Blue Economy is growing at a rapid pace on the strength of space-derived information. For the offshore oil and gas industry, space technology can provide situational awareness for operations as well as facilitating environmentally responsible exploration in extreme regions. A recent example of how space data is making an impact on the maritime sector is the illegal fishing project being conducted by the Satellite Applications Catapult, a Founding Sponsor of SpaceCom, in conjunction with the Pew Charitable Trust. One in five fish are caught illegally, an economic impact in the billions of dollars and a concomitant ecological impact via unregulated over-fishing. Space data, in a variety of forms, coupled with tailored algorithms are being used with great effect to combat this problem.
Space is not just a destination it is a resource. SpaceCom will lead the way in identifying the opportunities and partnerships to take advantage of this rich resource.