Access.Space – a UK based association for CubeSats

Our Head of product Daria Ryzkova is currently in the UK, but she relayed us her impressions from the inaugural Access.Space conference that took place at ESA Harwell Campus last week.

Access.Space is a UK based alliance that seeks to bring smallsat market stakeholders together and facilitate dialog and collaboration between them. Established by Elisabeth Bonnardel-Azzarelli, Dr. Tony Azzarelli, and Christian Frhr. von der Ropp (each having over 20 years of industry experience!), Access.Space is establishing the environment for quick development of the market. This is not a place for aggressive sales pitches, but that of a supportive atmosphere and information exchange so important for newcomers.

The conference kicked-off with a panel on future trends, with a keynote by Prof. Barnaby Osborne, Smallsat technology coordinator in ESA. Dr. Joanna Hart, Harwell Space Cluster Manager shared news from Harwell Space Cluster. Christian Frhr. von der Ropp, Director & Co-founder Access.Space spoke about launch site on Saint Helena island near Equator, which provides all advantages of low inclination launches.

Here’s the summary of the ideas from this and other panels for those who could not attend: 

  • CubeSats are still the hype, mostly in a good sense. Range of CubeSat applications is expanding, some of them viable, some not so much. This is a normal new technology life cycle. CubeSats are very flexible and have high technical capabilities.
  • Our goal is not the technology in itself, but the provision of useful service with that technology («don’t grant projects, grant success!»). In the space industry, we tend to create a solution before we understand the problem, and that is not a scalable approach for sustainable and commercially-viable industry. 
  • CubeSat companies require a different investment strategy, which would take into account industry specifics. New technologies will not provide opportunities for monetization and return on investment in the short-term, however, it is essential to invest in this emerging market to reach long-term, industry-wide impact, and future goals.
  • Both sides – satellite companies and investors – should really consider new approaches in tracking investment success. With CubeSats, cost of error decreases significantly, and traction (or lack of) should be visible earlier on. Satellite companies should be tracking business indicators and dynamic, and not strictly technology.
  • Communication satellites are now in the spotlight, while Earth observation technologies are focusing more and more on data analysis.
  • The gap between businesses and companies that provide data is still significant, we have a way to go before this data can be used for informed decision making or any kind of opex or capex savings. 
  • Ground segment needs to be more agile and adjust to the new economic reality, with fewer staff required to support Smallsats and CubeSats. These new players are already on the market today.
  • Delays in licensing and insurance procurement can have a tremendous effect on the whole industry, resulting in cash flow gaps due to the rescheduling.
  • If you are a European Smallsat company at the very beginning of your journey, check ARTES– an excellent program to set you on your way. 

Access.Space is inviting all Smallsat industry actors, including satellite companies, space insurance, legal consultants, universities, and academia to join the movement with the free membership. As every platform is evolving with the number of its users, the events are getting more complex with growing number of participants and their expertise. Access.Space is planning to diversify its agenda with every event. Please use info@access.space to apply.

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