“This is extremely important for revolutionizing access to space because as long as we continue to throw away rockets and spacecrafts, we will never truly have access to space it’ll always be incredibly expensive.” Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO said after the recent unveiling of the Dragon V2 rocket, the first vehicle from the company to be a reusable for human space flight.
The commercial space industry has been one of the most interesting emerging markets in the world over the last 20 years. Like the rest of the aerospace industry, it has classically been incredibly expensive. Musk is part of a class of executives who have begun to look at cost reduction as a critical component of future exploration. As with many industries, resources are becoming scarcer and the cost of goods are rising as executives need to find ways to control costs on more complex and demanding projects. Fortunately, as processes become more refined and technologies have become more adept and resourceful, ways to reduce expense have emerged. Musk’s quote highlights a current executive trend: looking for ways to reuse even the most complex projects in order to provide market innovative at a reduced cost.
KPMG’s 2013 Global Aerospace & Defense Outlook found “…almost 80 percent of large OEM respondents saying that growth over the next two years will likely top out at an anemic two percent, it seems clear that any additional bottom line growth will need to be realized off the back of further cost reductions.” KPMG’s Aerospace & Defense Executive Survey reported that over 50% of executives surveyed said cost reduction and improving technologies were the two major initiatives their companies will spend the most energy and resources on in the coming years. As well, the survey mentioned that 41% of those executives thought their competitive advantage would be from providing innovative products that would stay ahead of market trends while providing the greatest total return on product cost.
NASA recently, through the work of retired employees and crowd funding, showed that even abandoned satellites can be re-awoken and reused after a 36-year jaunt around our solar system. Launched in 1978, the International Sun-Earth Explorer (now known as ISEE-3) was sent to study the solar winds and Earth’s magnetosphere. After 1982, the primary mission for the satellite was complete and it was repurposed to explore the coming Haley’s Comet. After 1999 the ISEE-3’s orbit took it on a path where its signal was lost to space. In 2008 a signal was heard again, in the remote Mojave Desert. It was then that a group of scientist including some retired NASA mission designers created a new plan to reuse the satellite on a third mission, to observe the sun from the Langrangian 1 liberation point, reports the The Globe and Mail.
Reuse is emerging as a reality in aerospace and holds potential to enable previously cost-prohibitive activities. As more aerospace organizations adopt reuse as a competitive advantage strategy, which challenges in the industry would you like to see overcome? Share your perspective by leaving a comment below.