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DSEI ‘Space in 2040’ panel discusses space travel, commercialisation and dual-use technology

The fourth episode of the DSEI Integrated Space series 'Space in 2040' looks at the space domain in twenty years’ time through the lens of current trends and the educated predictions of industry, academic and defence subject experts.

Hosted by DSEI Space Adviser Dr Michael Holden, the panel discusses the commercialisation of space, the use of defence capabilities such as surveillance and satellite tracking for civil use and the accessibility to knowledge and technology. As new actors continue to enter and operate in the space domain, Dr Matt Broadhead, Space Programme Senior Principal Adviser at DSTL expects that in the future access to space technology will be available on an individual level.


On the topic of space travel, SpaceX VP of Commercial Sales, Tom Ochinero, talks about the company’s ambition to enable space travel and ultimately help build a sustainable city on Mars. SpaceX completed five test flights of its Starship interplanetary transporter this year and has scheduled to go orbital in the next couple of months. Led by Elon Musk’s vision to make humankind a multi-planetary species, SpaceX aims to operate in a regular flight schedule where passengers can catch a morning or afternoon flight.


Success in this sector has also inspired venture capitalists who have increased funding in the last 18 months, according to Seraphim Space Camp Accelerator Director Claudia Mendzil, who can see funds in the future being led by breakthroughs in space transportation and investing in space tourism and the lunar economy.


The panel also explores the potential risks caused by dual use of space technology. Dr Broadhead highlights the need to understand the role of space operations such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and satellite comms for forces on the ground to fully comprehend the risks. He suggests that “the risk needs to carry over to the users of those services and how they then prosecute their military missions based on them.”


On the subject of regulations and norms in space, experts discuss the likeliness of an event driven future that would affect other domains and generate public interest and political will for change to happen. Policy is not keeping up with the operating environment, according to Dr Malcolm Macdonald, Director of Applied Space Technology Laboratory at Strathclyde University, who argues that complete agreement on rules is very challenging given current circumstances.

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