Space Markets: 1996 in Review
1996 was a banner year for space markets. Some of
the most significant milestones were:
On the other hand, many of the breakthroughs that I expected for 1996
have slipped into 1997. A few things to watch for in 1997:
- First space advertisement (Pepsi-Mir).
- Big LEO comsat constellations making progress and booking launches
- First operational Little LEO (ORBCOMM; although this is not yet a
- Private investment in space theme parks like the KSC Visitor
Center ($80 million expansion opened in late 1996).
- Lots of activity in new entrepreneurial launch companies (Kistler,
Kelly, etc.). Of course most will fail, but that is entrepreneurship
for you and these companies do pass a basic plausibility test better
than many past space startups.
- Boeing's Mir Pathfinder takes the first (small but concrete) step towards
commercial space stations (program announced 1996, first launch
scheduled for March 1997).
- First space burial (was to be in 1996, slipped to 1997 due to
- First Iridium launch (was to be in 1996, slipped to 1997).
- First Globalstar launch.
- Will the KSC Visitor Center achieve its goal of 4 million visitors
- Will LunaCorp succeed, both technically and financially, with
Robots in Cyberspace (as of 28 Dec 1996 their web page still says mid
to late 1996 but 1996 is over and I don't see no robots) and Desert
Trek (scheduled for 1997)?
So you can see various signs of market expansion, but also a
certain unsteadiness in terms of hardware actually getting built and
launched on time. It sure looks to me like the markets are there and
the customer (communications, burial, entertainment, etc.) businesses
are there. But can the companies who actually build space hardware
(especially launchers) step up to the challenge? Or are they going to
dither and underinvest and fail to outgrow their government contractor
culture, thereby delaying the explosion and insuring that when it does
happen, they will be sitting on the sidelines?
More information on each of these items should be available
elsewhere on the space markets page in most cases, or I'm probably
willing to dig up some references upon request.
This page is part of Jim
Kingdon's space markets page.