The world has come a long way in space technology since the Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite, Sputnik I into space. The moment marked the beginning of intense competition for supremacy in space. While many would argue on the need for building satellites and the practicality of costly space programs amid the challenges on earth, space exploration has significant economic and strategic benefits.
The truth is that satellites are actually playing a pivotal role in improving the state of the world. If we want to solve the challenges that our planet if currently facing, we need to understand this. Space exploration will help us strengthen our cellular and communication network, take actions on climate change and make scientific discoveries and innovations.
Present state of space technology
There’s been a major paradigm shift in the commercial space market, with the space industry becoming more globalized and the emergence of many private organizations. Europe, in particular, has had a defining role in recent years and has become a major player in space exploration, with over 40 percent control over the world’s satellite manufacturing, launching, and operations. This has triggered a great influx of business opportunities for the private sector in space exploration. Arianespace, a French company, for example, has been a key player and innovator in commercial space launching services in recent years. Here’s a depiction of recent Mars space missions involving major players from around the world.
With more countries getting into the arena, space technology is being revolutionized with several disruptive technologies that are evolving and driving innovation at a much greater space. For instance, the power of miniaturization is changing how we design our satellites today. We’re able to include several extensive capabilities in much smaller packages reducing the cost of space launches, enabling us to launch constellations of miniature satellites in one go. This is all set to improve in the future with developments in micro and nano-technology.
Future of space industry
The space industry is about to witness dramatic changes in the future. Seemingly impossible things like finding new planets with life, showing signs of organic material, and identifying resources in our reach will become within our reach in the times to come. Scientists are molding several technologies to address the limitations of space.
For instance, the innovation of 3D printers will be used in space during emergencies in the future. The tech is ideal for withstanding deep vacuum conditions, strong temperature fluctuations, and solar radiations. Currently, additive manufacturing is a real challenge in space and 3D printers can help resolve this.
One of the objectives of space exploration is to identify unutilized resources of energy on extraterrestrial soil to foster affordable and sustainable human exploration in deep space. Consumables like hydrogen, oxygen, water extracted will enable humans to survive longer on such missions. NASA and several other space agencies are working actively to design rovers and excavation equipment to make this possible. Another recent development has been the establishment of space internetworking center (SPICE) that will enable avoiding delay-tolerant networking, energy-efficient communications during space missions in future.
Deep space communication is another segment that’s continuously evolving to overcome distance, power, and spacecraft mass limitations in space. Leveraging following technologies we may see a stable communication network between earth and spacecraft in future.
- Radio frequency technologies
These high-rate RF communication techniques are more reliable when we move deep into space. They are power efficient and reduce the amount of energy needed to transmit a given number of bytes.
- Optical communications
Over interplanetary distance, these technologies can enable streaming high definition imagery data communication.
- Deep space optic communications
It’s the future of optic communication providing mass, power and volume allocation benefits. The data rate will be 10 times greater than the deep space RF system.
NASA has recently introduced new spacesuits specifically for Artemis generation's missions. With great mobility, they offer inclusive sizing that accommodates anyone. They are also designed to withstand a higher range of temperature variances that can serve at both north and South Pole of the moon.
What does it mean for life on the earth?
You may not recognize the developments of space technologies but they are already helping the earth in many ways. For significant troubles and humanitarian crises, we can safely rely on space technologies to sustain life on earth.
- Harsh storms and identifying weather patterns have always been a threat to sustainable life on earth. However, space satellites are much more than just daily weather forecasts. These satellites can actually monitor greenhouse gases for effective earth ecosystem analysis. For example, solar photovoltaic power used by NASA on international space station aims to improve solar energy performance.
- Wide options in mobiles and broadband communications have lowered the cost of uses. Omnipresent broadband with global access will add billions to the global economy and spur development.
- Satellite imagery innovation can help to identify crop yield through a magnified pixel view. Farmers can better understand when to water, fertilize, and harvest the crop. Creating a vegetation index to represent crop yield productivity with the help of spectral bands like near-infrared, the collection of data on agriculture areas will make up 37% of earth's landmass.
- Earthquake warning can be given if any unusual electromagnetic signatures are precursors to major earthquakes then using signal processing techniques, it can be detected and identified through satellites.
- Space X’s advancements in space technology have reduced the barriers to spaceships to carry humans into low earth orbit and suborbital. Offering lower cost and reliable launch capability they have provided effective commercial space transportation.
NASA has always looked to explore life-sustaining conditions beyond earth and Mars is one of them. Though not certain, recent explorations have pointed about possibilities of life on Mars and maybe in the future with the help of space technologies it may well be possible for humans to live there.