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Governments should use space more effectively to address society's needs

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has published a report advising governments to use space technology more wisely in order to address civil needs.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
has published a report advising governments to use space technology
more wisely in order to address civil needs.

Space technology can be used in
particular to tackle five major challenges, according to the report:
environmental problems, including natural disasters; the use of natural
resources; the increasing mobility of goods and people; growing
security threats; and the development of the information society. And
in order to make the most of this technology‘s potential, it is
recommended that governments do three broad things: implement a
sustainable space infrastructure; encourage public use and encourage
private sector participation.

According to the OECD, this report is unusual in two respects: it is
written from the point of view of society and addresses governments
rather than industry; and it focuses on the demand side rather than the
supply side of space technology.

‘Most past studies of the space sector
have focused on the supply side: technological advances and the types
of new capabilities that can be developed. They assume, often
incorrectly, that development eventually follows such advances. This
publication [Space 2030: Tackling Society‘s Challenges] explores
instead how governments can get the most out of future public and
private space investment,’ states the OECD.

A number of conditions must be met if
governments are to reap the benefits of space. Primarily, barriers such
as institutional arrangements and regulations must be addressed.

The space sector usually involves three
sets of actors: space agencies, public and private operators of space
applications, and the upstream segment of the industry (spacecraft and
launcher manufacturers and providers of launching services). Countries
must clarify the role of each, and also define the relationships
between the actors, according to the OECD. Different countries may
adopt different solutions according to their priorities, and in some
cases this may distort competition at international level, the report

Moving onto the legal framework affecting space technology, the report
notes that a number of countries still do not have national space laws,
and that this represents ‘a source of uncertainty for space actors,
especially private ones’. Also, because international space law is a
public regime, it is not well suited to business transactions, and
national laws that do exist are not always business-oriented as they
were often developed with a view to security and strategic
considerations rather than business.

The regulatory framework, says the OECD,
‘should ideally provide basic rules of the game’ that ensure a stable
and predictable environment for business, stimulate innovation and
encourage entrepreneurship. ‘This is far from the case,’ states the
report, citing the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)
procedure for allocating frequencies and orbital slots, which ‘raises a
number of issues and is a source of uncertainties’, according to the
OECD. Space debris is another area that is inadequately addressed,
while several standardisation questions remain open, the report claims.

The OECD carried out a number of studies
before writing this report, and is therefore confident of the accuracy
of its warning that ‘the potential of space will not be realised unless
governments take decisive action to improve the framework conditions
that govern space activities.’

Another problem highlighted by the OECD
is the lack of public awareness about space activities. General
perceptions are distorted due to the media focus on exclusively
sensational successes and failures, states the report. As a result,
citizens have a poor understanding of the value of space-based services
for their daily lives and thus do not fully support further investment
in this technology.

Prospects for the
downstream segment of the sector – space applications – are looking far
more promising than those for the upstream sector- space asset
manufacturing and launch services, according to the OECD. The upstream
segment suffers from ‘a situation of chronic oversupply’ owing largely
to a desire of governments of space-faring nations to establish and
maintain independent access to space for strategic and national
sovereignty reasons.

While the future looks bright for certain
applications, not all should be pursued with the same intensity, the
OECD believes. The report points to information-intensive applications
such as satellite-based telecommunications, Earth observation and
navigation as having huge potential, but casts doubt on the prospects
for transport and manufacturing applications on account of the
decreasing cost of access to space.

Governments are advised to broaden their view of which policy areas are
relevant to space. Research, economic, social and environmental polices
all impact upon space activities, and decision-makers should be aware
of this, advises the report.

The report is intended by the OECD to
provide recommendations for actions in the short and medium term while
looking at space from a long-term policy point of view.

Category: Miscellaneous

Data Source Provider: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)

Document Reference: Based on the OECD report ‘Space 2030: Tackling Society‘s Challenges’

Subject Index : Aerospace Technology; Social Aspects;
Environmental Protection; Economic Aspects; Innovation, Technology

RCN: 24030

(Credits OECD and CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities)