Toffler Black and White Paper Calls for Space Unity

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Toffler Black and White Paper Calls for Space Unity In June, Space Foundation partner Toffler Associates hosted a group of leaders from the public and private sectors to discuss the future of the space industry.

The meeting, which was held in conjunction with the Space Foundation’s Space Business Forum: New York, brought together executives and leaders representing government agencies, non-profit organizations, large multinational corporations, small businesses, and major universities and research institutions.

Toffler Associates combined input from this group with its own observations, research, and experience plus data from The Space Report 2009: The Authoritative Guide to Global Space Activity, to develop a “Black and White Paper” with recommendations to help secure the future of the U.S. space industry as a global leader and innovator. Following is an excerpt from that paper. The entire publication, titled A House Divided Cannot Stand: The Need to Unify the U.S. Space Industry, can be downloaded here.

Space exploration first rose to popularity in the United States as a common goal, meant to unify a country struggling with social and political turmoil and with political-military competition with the world’s other superpower. The unity and collaboration that emerged helped drive innovation and extraordinary achievements. Space has since evolved to a hub of business and industry, one of the critical infrastructures driving not only the U.S. but the world.

A House Divided Cannot Stand
Today, as other countries develop technologies that reach, operate in, and make use of space, America’s position as a leader in space innovation is endangered. Paradoxically, the causes of this decline (and discussions of potential solutions) are fueling less a renewed unity of effort in the American space community and more a debilitating “side effect.” Established industrial and government space innovators are finding themselves at odds with independent entrepreneurs in a needlessly polar contrast of views about the future of the industry, a debate some see as “Old Space vs. New Space.”

For the U.S. to continue in a leadership role in space innovation, we must unify our innovators (and our industry) so they can work together to address the shortcomings of the current system.

The Importance of Space Innovation
Space is an “invisible” but critical economic infrastructure of our time, already having an enormous impact on both the U.S. and global economies as well as other vital interests like defense and intelligence. That economic role, and the scope and scale of its importance, is often underappreciated. And our country’s role as both an economic leader and a beneficiary of space has developed in large part because our space industry historically has been so innovative.

Immediately visible are the direct impacts the space industry has on the economy:

  • Space is a $257 billion market (estimated budgets and revenues from public and private sources) that enables commerce, communication, collection of information, and more.
  • In the commercial space transportation sector alone, the direct valuation is $23 billion, and $139 billion when secondary and tertiary industries are included – more than one percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

But these numbers don’t begin to take into account the fuller impact the space industry has had on society and the economy. Many innovations derived from the space industry – whether products or processes – have somewhat “invisible” effects. By examining just one innovation – the Global Positioning System (GPS) – we can see a sample of the immensely valuable economic and other effects American space innovation has produced:

  • Machine control – In such industries as surveying, construction, forestry, and mining, the operational accuracy obtained with GPS receivers has resulted in improved project performance, increased efficiency and preserved natural resources due to reduction in required time, materials, and energy.
  • Mapping – High-precision GPS combined with other satellites and ground-based augmentation systems has produced more precise mapping, natural resource monitoring, land management, and commercial zoning. These improvements have benefited both the economy and the natural resources they measure.
  • Timing – Highly accurate timing enables highly effective and efficient execution of many complex functions in the right sequence for applications such as power grid operational management, cell phone network operations, and financial transaction synchronization.

Unity as the Key to Success
American space innovation will continue to face both “old” and “new” threats if the traditional industry and the entrepreneurs continue to see themselves as fundamentally different camps instead of as different voices and approaches in the same system. Unifying these minds, goals, processes, and inspirations is not a naively optimistic objective. It’s a necessity in an environment in which our goals in space are becoming more diverse and challenging to achieve, competition with other economies and powers more intense, and our need for a diversity of technical and managerial solutions more critical than ever before. An “us-vs.-them” mentality is a red herring and ultimately counter-productive. Old Space and New Space are the U.S. space industry of the future and only together can the country create a sustainable path to space innovation and leadership. A divided industry diminishes our ability to focus on the elements that proactively foster innovation, effectively address the threats to our space innovation leadership, and develop an effective long-term strategy for space exploration and a space economy.

Space innovation, like any innovation, results from the alchemy of competition, money or patronage, talent, and inspiration. Where one of these is lacking, innovation is bound to suffer. And when we have a diversity of approaches to and perspectives on each element, innovation will thrive. In Toffler Associates, we believe some simple steps can help the two sides of the space community come together to address the challenges and opportunities in the core elements that comprise and fuel innovation.

To read more of A House Divided Cannot Stand: The Need to Unify the U.S. Space Industry, click here.

This article is part of Space Watch: October 2009 (Volume: 8, Issue: 10).