By Hywel Curtis
The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is having a severe effect on families, companies and organizations all over the world and the space industry is certainly not immune to the impact.
The situation is changing rapidly as the virus spreads, and in order to get a sense of the current outlook from industry stakeholders, we recently ran a short survey to get a snapshot of prevailing attitudes. We presented respondents with a number of statements about the impact of Covid-19 on the sector and asked them to share their views.
We received responses from 155 stakeholders across the space industry from a range of different institutions.
Almost half of the respondents were engineers, managers and entrepreneurs from companies across the space industry and another 11% were consultants, both on an independent basis and with larger firms.
Around a fifth of respondents were academics and researchers, while another 12% were based at national space agencies or other government departments carrying out space-related activities and oversight.
Finally, 11% of respondents were from online communities, space industry hubs and/or media companies with an interest in the sector.
More than 100 respondents provided their geographic information and 29 different countries were named as can be seen below.
Here’s what survey respondents indicated about the impact of Covid-19 on the sector:
Governments all over the world are having to take very tough decisions about how best to protect their citizens and secure their economies and societies.
These extraordinary measures are going to cost a lot of money so it’s therefore to be expected that most respondents believe public money available for space will decrease next year.
However, it is interesting to note a level of optimism too, with more than a fifth of respondents thinking this may not be the case. Perhaps in some countries government spending could stay the same or even increase.
Following on from above, it is unsurprising to see that more than two-fifths of respondents believe that emerging space economies will see a reduction in government investment; but the picture is a little more mixed here.
More than a quarter of respondents are neutral on the issue and almost 30% believe that government investments in emerging economies will not decrease.
The socioeconomics of countries with nascent space programmes and industries are usually very different to the larger and more established players, so it will be very interesting to follow the space sector’s recovery and development in the near future.
This question evoked one of the strongest responses in the survey with more than 70% of respondents selecting ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree.’
Companies in almost all industry sectors are currently taking huge losses, and a looming global recession is likely to severely restrict available private financing in the short- to medium-term.
In many ways, the space industry is still in its infancy and relies on regular injections of capital to support large-scale projects. A combination of immediate financial losses as a result of the pandemic, and investment being shifted to other sectors in its aftermath, is likely to restrict the availability of seed and growth capital for space companies.
The majority of survey respondents disagreed with this statement or were neutral on the topic.
Although not implicitly asked, it is reasonable to assume that many of those respondents believe that employment and hiring will be negatively affected, given the impact of the virus on business growth.
At the same time, it is positive to see that around a third of respondents believe that employment will be unaffected and hopefully reflects some optimism for the future.
Most respondents believe that short-term cashflow could be an issue for many companies.
The economic impacts of the pandemic are still in the early stages but it appears that many in the industry are expecting businesses to have to deal with delayed payments at some point this year.
Over 60% of respondents believe that these emerging services are going to be negatively affected in the aftermath of the pandemic.
Although we’ve seen a number of deals and missions in these areas continue unaffected, it is likely that most of them were financed prior to any of the major impact on business, as a result of Covid-19, being felt.
More than a quarter of respondents disagree that these markets will contract next year however, so again there is some optimism in the industry.
In some further signs of optimism, a majority of respondents agree that those areas of the industry most able to support economic recovery globally will continue to attract investment.
The space industry has always been able to demonstrate its direct value to people outside of the sector through services that provide the vital data to keep everyday processes running, and this will be no different as we re-build after the pandemic.
Smaller companies in the industry who aren’t involved in such services, and who feel exposed by the effects of Covid-19 on the sector, may consider how they can best position their commercial products and services to help contribute to economic revival in the near future.
The majority of survey respondents agree with the sentiment that the satellite broadcasting industry faces both a challenge and opportunity in this disrupted time.
Social distancing legislation and travel limitations have already had an impact on many traditional broadcasting clients, although with more people staying at home than at any time in living memory satellite service providers to this sector could see growth (or at least limited losses) in this period.
More than 60% of our respondents agree or strongly agree that space policy-making will slow down as a result of the pandemic, with just over a fifth of respondents neutral on the topic.
Although work is continuing on major policy frameworks (the White House signed a new Executive Order on cooperation in space resource use for example) in countries with emerging space programs it is likely that these efforts could take a hit.
Space policy and legislation has been a growing area of research and practice for a number of years and is increasingly challenged to act at a fast enough speed to keep pace with new technologies – take space debris issues that constellation manufacturers are having to deal with for example – so it will be interesting to see what happens in this area for the rest of 2020.
The way forward
Satsearch is committed to supporting the space industry at large during a time of unprecedented crisis. This sentiment survey marks the first step towards our goal of helping chart the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the sector. The results from this survey point to the fact that there is a lot of uncertainty about the short- and long-term effects of the global pandemic on prospects for space organizations.
We believe that a number of factors will determine how the industry tackles this difficult period:
- Transparency: In time of need, the way space organizations respond to operational challenges will have a pronounced effect on the degree to which buyers, suppliers, and partners perceive the business environment. Transparent and clear communication is key to maintaining trust.
- Resilience: A highly dynamic macroeconomic environment requires organizations to dig deep, to address resiliency across their business. Those that manage this will likely be at significant advantage in the marketplace. Know your risks and mitigate them.
- Diversification: With projects likely to be delayed or even cancelled, it’s of paramount importance that organizations in the space sector find ways to diversify their customer base, to mitigate risk. Those that manage to do so, will likely come out of the on-going crisis even stronger.
Ultimately, the space industry is not insulated from the global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. As the sector comes to terms with this crisis, we are open to supporting organizations across the board. If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this survey or contribute your own thoughts and ideas about how the industry can navigate this crisis, we’d love to talk to you. Please get in touch today and we can help to amplify your message to a global audience.
Stay safe and healthy!
Hywel Curtis is Head of Marketing at satsearch – the global marketplace for space.
This article was originally published by satsearch on 10 April 2020. You can view the original story here