As she gets ready to deliver a lecture at the Royal Aeronautical Society today (5 September), and in advance of our BAE Systems space team’s significant announcement at Space Comm Expo on 7-8 September, Elizabeth Seward looks at why there needs to be a sense of urgency around innovation in space.

Space feels closer to us than ever before. According to the National Space Strategy, the global space economy is set to expand from an estimated £270 billion in 2019 to almost £500 billion by 2030, driven by a greater demand for global data, advances in technologies and an increased need for continuous connectivity around the world.

These activities may relate to security, to transport, to natural disasters and meteorology, and to general intelligence around what’s occurring on earth, from the best bird’s eye view possible.

Regardless of application, though, this acknowledgement of space as the next frontier culminates in a need for innovation. Much in the same way as digital transformations are impacting infrastructures and systems closer to home, the satellites and solutions that orbit our earth are also undergoing a tech revolution, often described as ‘new space’. 

New space is a sector that is no longer exclusive to states and large global corporations. To unlock the digital advantage that exists beyond our atmosphere, we need more intelligent and secure use of data, a stronger swathe of expertise in this specific domain, and strong levels of collaboration between leading players. In this context, a dynamic and expanding SME contingent will also play a key role in developments.

What this more accessible, lower cost, reduced barriered arena also invites, however, is adversaries. With this in mind, it’s vital to speed up the process of data generation, knowledge sharing and general innovation.

Unlocking digital advantage through connected insight

Speeding up and getting ahead is no mean feat – it requires the unlocking of our digital advantage. By this, we refer to the 86% of aerospace organisations who have earmarked technological differentiation as key to accelerating innovation and transformation, to change processes quickly, and to keep ahead of both competitors and adversaries.

When the ultimate goal is aiding decision making and sector-specific understanding on the ground, then ensuring access to both timely and accurate data across numerous sources is paramount. This can be achieved, firstly through the quality of the systems generating such data, but also by volume. The advent of lower-cost satellites and SME involvement is already creating more data sources, backed up by more intelligent insights, and a stronger application of these insights in decision making. 

The creation of digital threads has the possibility to take data use from space to another level – sharing it across domains with the highest levels of security and using it to inform action. 

A high trust space

In this vein, perhaps the most significant word is ‘trust’. We’ve spoken about high trust environments in the past, pertaining to areas such as defence and government. Space absolutely completes that trifecta, given the extent and nature of information that contributes to society, safety and future progress.

‘Advancing technical innovation’ to meet this ‘trust’ challenge head on, received more positive support within aerospace (63%) than in either defence (61%) or government (59%) in a recent BAE Systems report exploring the notion of ‘digital advantage’. Of the subsequent 85% across the board who said that digital capability is key, common reasons why, included: the ability to change processes (55%); accelerating innovation (48%); meeting organisational goals (45%); and staying ahead of adversaries (35%).

However, considering that 97% report barriers to achieving this digital advantage, it is clear why a sense of collaboration, of teamwork, and of digital thread, is required.
These connected insights will contribute to state security - a concept, application and need that has sadly risen to the surface again in recent months. They will inform rescue missions in the context of natural disasters that are also becoming more commonplace and concerning as a result of climate change . On a more localised level, they may also aid with rescue missions, with understanding the impact of emissions, or with traffic reports. 

Innovation in space for advantage on Earth

These applications barely scratch the surface, and it is therefore clear that decisions on the ground would be helped significantly by accurate, timely, trusted and corroborated data from the systems orbiting us. To reach that possibility, we need to make sure that the platforms generating such information are ahead of the curve when it comes to their digital capabilities, and their security levels. 

More than half of aerospace leaders (56%) agree that even greater collaboration than we have now will be a deciding factor in whether these boxes are ticked, and there needs to be a sense of urgency in bringing current and potential innovators into the loop.

BAE Systems Digital Intelligence will be contributing its concerted voice to the group conversation at the Space-Comm Expo on 7-8 September. BAE Systems will be making a significant announcement at the event explaining our own contribution and investments in space.

Before then you can hear about how the advances in the space sector over the last 20 years have driven huge changes across the industry, when Elizabeth talks about The Changing Face of Space on 5 September, at the Royal Aeronautical Society’s Annual Amy Johnson Named Lecture.

Elizabeth will cover how economics, defence, diversity and public perception are shaping the global space market and what the future might look like.

Elizabeth Seward

Head of Strategy - Space, BAE Systems