Space watch

OECD Observer

Ever since the launching of Sputnik in 1957, public attention has always focused on spectacular space missions such as the landing of Apollo on the Moon in 1969 or, more recently, the stunning pictures transmitted from Mars by Spirit. At the same time, space programmes have faced their setbacks, from tragedies like Columbia to extravagant cost overruns, leading to deep cuts in public support to space ventures.

Despite these challenges, space applications have the potential to generate significant economic, social and environmental benefits worldwide, as space technologies give rise to a growing range of products and services. This is the view of The Civil Space Sector in 2030: A Scenario Based Assessment , a new report from the OECD International Futures Programme. Recent political announcements apart, the space sector faces serious challenges that require urgent national and international policy action. Many countries reassessing their overall space strategies face difficult choices, in particular concerning the level of effort they should devote to space, how that effort should be allocated, the role of the private sector, and so on. As the OECD report suggests, the policy and regulatory frameworks governing space-based activities have to be better adapted to meet future challenges, including the further development of commercial ventures.

What is the state of the space sector? What are its prospects and obstacles to its development? What applications are likely to be successful in the future? The report attempts to answer some of these questions by exploring the future evolution of major components of the space sector (military space, civil space, commercial space) over the next 30 years, taking into account developments in geopolitics, socioeconomic issues, energy and the environment, and technology. The report examines the current state of the space sector and provides the basis for assessing the prospects of a number of space applications, including microelectronics, nanotechnology or robotics. RJC


OECD (2004), The Civil Space Sector in 2030: A Scenario Based Assessment, Paris.

©OECD Observer No 242, March 2004

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