Category Archives: Space industry

SGC2013 – Industry Working Group (4/4): Knowledge management

The last main topic discussed in the Industry Working Group of SGC2013 was related to knowledge management. This is going to be the last post of this series. New topics related with the nascent microsatellite industry, human commercial spaceflight or industry clusters among others will follow in future entries.

The new generation of space professionals is facing an issue quite related to the age gap present in space industry: technology transfer/knowledge management.

Many space senior professionals are near to retirement and young generations are moving between companies or doing international motilities.

How to transfer this know-how that is not written on the reports or data packages which are normally customer oriented, and how to transfer this know-how needed to face the everyday issues which is only acquired with the experience are some of the difficulties that have been observed.

This challenge, observed by many of the young space professionals has been analyzed with the different inputs and points of view of delegates from many different companies and regions around the world.

In the previous generations, space-related professionals used to stay in the same company for a long term, in many occasions the entirety of their professional career. That made it quite easy to share the know-how with the different teams, and to share the lessons learnt during the development of a project. The situation has changed drastically. While space projects last normally a few years, in many occasions the core team workers do not stay within the project during all its length.

Challenge:

The current employment trends, where individuals move frequently between companies and projects over the course of their careers, is creating knowledge management challenges.

The availability of new technologies and software tools make it easier to address this problem, but significant capability remains embedded in human capital.

Recommendations:

Recommendation 1

Exploring new software tools for effective knowledge management, sharing, and storage.

An analysis of the available tools and how they can adapt to the needs of the different projects of business areas of the companies should be done. Space projects in general, are characterized by very long duration in comparison with other kind of industries. This makes it especially important to keep track of all the issues faced during its development, as well as the key factors taken into account to face them.

An effective knowledge management tool must provide information about know-how and lessons learnt from a project, which are not usually written down on the project data packages (customer oriented) and can be significantly useful to face a new upcoming project.

Recommendation 2

Creating user-friendly repositories that allow professionals to access experts and information that remain out of reach.

In many cases, some repositories are already implemented within the different companies. However, sometimes these are not liked by users. The need of a user-friendly tool, easily understandable and intuitive would easily simplify the task.

The Space sector average employee age is increasing and many professionals are close to retirement. A big percentage of the workers were born before the IT revolution and they are not so skilled in using these tools. User-friendly and intuitive repositories would be easier accepted by all space professionals.

This tool would also be useful to share the findings from R&D teams within companies and engineers working on regular projects. Lack of communication between teams can easily occur in big companies and in many occasions it suppresses the mutual benefit of shared knowledge for R&D teams. The mentioned tool/repository would allow space professionals to access not only already finished project’s information but also present research activities for the benefit of all activities pursued within the company/organization.

Recommendation 3

Foster a closer work environment between professionals at all levels of experience.

As it has already been mentioned before, there are many space professionals close to retirement. This generation, completely full of experience and space related knowledge is crucial to teach and assist the young space professionals. However, sometimes younger professionals face some difficulties to approach them. The company management should foster a work environment between professionals at all levels of experience. An example to make them work closer and foment team spirit would be to introduce inverse mentoring programs. Young space professionals grew up surrounded by high-tech technologies. This fact makes them really effective workers while using high-tech tools or learning how to use new ones. The new generation, that usually receives mentoring from the other ones, could assist them to use new high-tech tools.

Recommendation 4

Prioritizing the development and long-term training of young professionals in project management strategy.

The age gap has been identified as a major issue within the space industry. Qualified space professionals are usually in charge of the mentoring of new engineers and developers. However, an effective mentoring process can take a few years, which sometimes is not possible due to the work load or retirements processes.

Many times it a loss of information has been observed when long term employees are leaving the company due to retirement. To increase continuous information transfer the age gap should be avoided.

Project management strategy should focus on a more continuous hiring. To hire in smaller amounts of people but more continuously would definitely benefit industry, having a more effective know-how transfer.

The hiring strategy should be focused on the long term, and not only in the work-load needed for the present projects. This would allow having always a variety of different ages of professionals involved in the same project, and would result in an effective know-how transfer program.

Reporting: Sandra González Díaz. Subject Matter Experts: Paul Guthrie, Alanna Krolikowski. Moderator: Sandra González Díaz. Delegates: Emma Braegen, Cynthia Chen, Zorana Dancuo, Thomas Hobbs, Chung Sheng Huang, Jakob Huesing, Abhijet Kumar, Philipp Maier, Daichi Nakamura, Pavel Paces, Lluc Palerm, Daniel Sagath, Olga Stelmakh, Jan Svoboda, Nicole Tchorowski , Prater Tracie, Saqib Mehmood, Phillippa Blaber, Luís Ferreira, Felipe Arevalo, Zihua Zhu

SGC2013 – Industry Working Group (3/4): Internationalization and industrial cooperation

After analyzing the market focus of the industry with the posts of customer focus and entrepreneurship. The working group turned its efforts toward improving operational issues like industry internationalization, industrial cooperation and knowledge management. In this session, the recommendations of the working group on internationalization and industrial cooperation are explained.

One nation alone cannot hope to solve every problem in space technology, whether it is space exploration or satellite communications. In addition, developments in space technology not only aid a single nation or firm, but advance humanity forward. The International Space Station (ISS) is a prime example of the achievements that can be accomplished when international collaborations are utilized. The cost of the ISS runs over $100 billion, an amount that would be unaffordable for any singular nation. However, it has brought a myriad of high tech jobs to Earth, as well as countless advancements in scientific research.  The SGC 2013 Industry Group recommends that international collaborations should be taken advantage of and further invested in.

Challenge:

While the space industry is more global and diffused than ever, young professionals still face legacy regulatory and legal barriers to collaboration with colleagues in other countries. These barriers prevent the industry from reaping the benefits of emerging international networks.

Recommendations:

Recommendation 1

Invest in international public-private partnerships to efficiently resolve interface, standards, and other technical issues that individual governments and firms cannot address alone.

Recommendation 2

Take full advantage of new low-cost, small-scale technologies to build international partnerships.

  • Hosted Payloads
  • Small Satellites

Space missions typically have large investments associated with them. Similarly to the ISS, collaborations between nations and firms could lead to reductions in the cost of large scale projects to each individual participant.

One international public-private partnership that the SGC 2013 industry group recommends is to resolve interfaces and standards. One example of standards providing a benefit to the industry is the Consultative Committee for Space Data Standards (CCSDS). Founded in 1982 by a collaboration of major space agencies, it provides a forum for data and information system standards. Standards for space communication protocols, for example, can easily be accessed by all agencies. These standards help to promote interoperability between space agencies and firms. Furthermore, having a multi-member agency for data standards reduces the cost of space missions, as less time needs to be spent developing communications protocols.

Standards and interfaces alone are not the only partnership that nations can take advantage of. Currently, the small satellite industry is becoming a more viable option for many countries and firms to use. These groups may not have the capital or ability to launch on larger satellites, but small satellites provide off-the-shelf technologies at a much cheaper price.

Another low-cost, small-scale technology that can be used to foster international cooperation is hosted payloads. These payloads are attached to satellites, but operate independently of the rest of the spacecraft. Because firms and nations would not have to develop their own satellites, this drastically reduces the cost of a mission. Nations that could benefit from space technology, such as earth imaging, but don’t have a large enough budget to host a satellite could partner with launch-capable nations or companies. In addition, firms that could benefit from space technology could similarly pair with nations or other firms.

Reporting: Nicole Tchorowski. Subject Matter Experts: Paul Guthrie, Alanna Krolikowski. Moderator: Sandra González Díaz. Delegates: Emma Braegen, Cynthia Chen, Zorana Dancuo, Thomas Hobbs, Chung Sheng Huang, Jakob Huesing, Abhijet Kumar, Philipp Maier, Daichi Nakamura, Pavel Paces, Lluc Palerm, Daniel Sagath, Olga Stelmakh, Jan Svoboda, Prater Tracie, Saqib Mehmood, Phillippa Blaber, Luís Ferreira, Felipe Arevalo, Zihua Zhu

SGC2013 – Industry Working Group (1/4): Lack of customer focus

Last September, delegates of the Space Generation Congress 2013 gathered in Beijing to discuss about current trends and future perspectives in the Space sector. 5 themes were prioritized: Industry, Agency, Society, Exploration, and Earth Observation. The following series of posts in the SGAC Commercial Space blog will present the recommendations provided by delegates in the Industry Working Group.

These recommendations aim at improving the efficacy and efficiency of the industry to ensure its long term sustainability. In this first post, how Space companies have many times incurred heavy investments in technical developments without looking into the actual needs of their customers leading to catastrophic financial results is discussed.

Space is inspiring. It certainly is one of the most demanding engineering areas. In such a harsh environment, even the slightest malfunction of a component may cause the failure of the whole system. Players in this industry have achieved impressive engineering milestones, unfortunately, this same focus on engineering has made these companies rely too much on the ‘build it and they will come’ philosophy. There are many examples of outstanding engineering projects that have turned to be terrible financial investments. Iridium is a remarkable example of that: it solved incredibly challenging engineering problems like assembly production of satellites (1 satellite each 4.5 days) or launching 72 spacecraft in about a year, while being a complete commercial failure because the company did not understand the market. Iridium was only able to attract 20% of the initially forecasted customers.

In the early ages of the industry (and in a lower level still today) governments exerted a great influence on the industry. Obviously, the space industry has been organized to respond to the governments’ demands. Needless to say, motivations for governments are different from commercial profitability: they seek to generate employment, foster STEM education or boost the national pride. The need to satisfy defense high-tech demands has transformed some aerospace companies into organizations closer to research institutions with very long term developments than to flexible companies in a competitive market. In a time in which governments are moderating their expenditures and investors are lowering the value on high-risk endeavors and favoring flexibility in front of long term plans, aerospace companies should adapt themselves into a commercially driven, customer oriented industry.

Challenge:

Today’s Young people face an industry that must be more responsive to customer needs and market demand

Recommendations:

Recommendation 1

Use market data and research tools to ensure efficient use of resources in agency programs and commercial investments

Recommendation 2

At early stages of development, commit resources to generate reliable insight into customer demand and use cases

Recommendation 3

Involve a wider range of stakeholders (especially final users) in product development

a)      Integrate techniques like design thinking, customer development, and lean market-product development

b)      Low-volume production and prototyping for early market feedback (before main investment), potentially using emerging technologies like rapid prototyping or 3D-printing

In order to better satisfy the market needs and hence have optimal investments, the students and young professionals at the SGC 2013 suggested to the industry to make full use of market data and research tools to improve the decision making process in commercial space.

Ideally, these efforts should be done very early in the process; market should be validated before the big investments in product development are incurred. There is a new wave of market research techniques that should be incorporated to the industry like design thinking, a technique that combines creativity, empathy, and rationality to create innovative solutions for customers’ problems; customer development, for early product-market fit validation; or lean development for cost-effective launch of new products and services.

As an example, in the case of Iridium deployment, an early local simulation of the network conditions (data rate, building signal attenuation, terminal size, costs…) would have been very useful for calibrating the market and taking further product development and investment decisions.

Similarly, one of the most successful companies in space at the moment, SpaceX, is expanding the attributes of their services well beyond a technically bold vehicle (engineering focus). It works on understanding what is valued by its customers to better serve them by outperforming competitors in these underserved attributes (customer focus).

Reporting: Lluc Palerm. Subject Matter Experts: Paul Guthrie, Alanna Krolikowski. Moderator: Sandra González Díaz. Delegates: Nicole Tchorowski, Emma Braegen, Cynthia Chen, Zorana Dancuo, Thomas Hobbs, Chung Sheng Huang, Jakob Huesing, Abhijet Kumar, Philipp Maier, Daichi Nakamura, Pavel Paces, Daniel Sagath, Olga Stelmakh, Jan Svoboda, Prater Tracie, Saqib Mehmood, Phillippa Blaber, Luís Ferreira, Felipe Arevalo, Zihua Zhu