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Space Future has been on something of a hiatus of late. With the concept of Space Tourism steadily increasing in acceptance, and the advances of commercial space, much of our purpose could be said to be achieved. But this industry is still nascent, and there's much to do. this space.
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P Collins, 2003, "The Potential Importance of Passenger Space Travel Services", Published in The Journal of Space Technology and Science, Vol 19, No 1, pp 17-26, 2003 (actually 2005)..
Also downloadable from potential importance of passenger space travel services.shtml

References and Referring Papers    Printable Version 
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The Potential Importance of Passenger Space Travel Services
The world-wide publicity received by the first private flight to space by the piloted spaceplane "SpaceShipOne" in June 2004 drew attention to the project's very low cost – not much more than 1/1,000 of Nasa's annual budget. The flights were also the first concrete proof that it may be possible also to reach Earth orbit at far lower cost than that of government space agencies. If this is achieved, it could create a major new global passenger travel industry comparable to civil aviation, as well as making the resources of space easily accessible for human use.
1) Introduction: Sub-orbital Flight Cost Reduction

The most economically important event of 2004 was the demonstration by "SpaceShipOne" that passenger space travel can be low-cost. Contrary to what is widely believed, in truth space is not a barrier to the human race - it is a limitless cornucopia of resources for us to use as we spread out from Earth. However, this is not understood by most people, whose understanding of space development is based on the activities of government space agencies, which have unfortunately obscured this fact.

SpaceShipOne's designers have estimated that the price of sub-orbital passenger flights could fall as low as a few thousand USD/person, suggesting that the cost per flight is approximately 1/1,000 of the cost of Alan Shepard's sub-orbital flight, performed by NASA in 1961 using an expendable rocket. Although SpaceShipOne's flight was only sub-orbital, it gives a strong indication that the cost of orbital travel can be similarly reduced below its present level - which has not fallen at all in more than 40 years, since the first ever flights were made to orbit.

Thomas Kuhn described the process of scientific revolutions: resistance to innovation by the ruling elite typically continues until contradictions in the "ruling paradigm" become critical, after which new ideas finally take over in a process of rapid change after the advocates of outdated ideas retire [1]. Due to the decades-long delay in making efforts to reduce the cost of space travel, the coming reduction in launch costs promises to be rapid. The application for the first time of the accumulated know-how developed over more than 40 years through hundreds of billions of Euro-equivalents worth of expenditure on space technology development to the task of carrying paying passengers to and from orbital accommodation and leisure facilities, is liable to lead to an extraordinary flowering of innovation. This process cannot be predicted accurately, but research to date indicates both large potential demand (as discussed in section 2 below) and large potential for cost reduction, as demonstrated by SpaceShipOne. As a result, the coming revolution has been compared in importance to the Copernican revolution, the harbinger of the European Renaissance [2].

Like all large organisations, a major motivation of government organisations is to preserve the appearance that their work is valuable and successful, and they have a concomitant resistance to admitting error. However, in contrast to commercial organisations, government organisations are not forced by shareholders to correct mistaken policies that lead to losses, and so these may continue for decades in the absence of political pressure to change. However, following the pattern described by Kuhn, once senior staff responsible for mistaken space policies retire, their successors will be able to move forward, claiming to bear no responsibility for their predecessors' anti-space tourism policy.

One reason sometimes given by government space agencies for not contributing to the realisation of space tourism is to claim that while it may be possible, it is not likely to grow to an important scale, and so is merely a "trivial" use of space. The validity or otherwise of this opinion depends on the future scale to which passenger space travel and its spinoffs may grow, which is discussed next.

2) Potential Economic Value of Space Tourism.

The economic value of space tourism will depend on the level to which turnover grows, its profitability, its distribution around the world, the impacts of its growth on other space activities, and the economic context in which these effects take place.

2.1) Estimates of Potential Market

It is known from surveys that many members of the public wish to take a flight to space. In 2002-3 Nasa contractors estimated that sub-orbital flight services alone, the development of which would have low cost and low technical risk, are likely to grow to a scale several times larger than the commercial launch industry today. Moreover, data presented in the OECD's 2004 report "Space 2030: Exploring the Future of Space Applications" [3], suggests further that the economic potential of passenger space travel services is much greater than that of other existing space activities.

Table 1 shows data from that report which quotes space transport revenues as several billion dollars/year (Figure 7.1 in [3]). However, of this figures commercial launch revenues were only some $700 million in 2003, falling from $900 million in 2002 [3]. The annual revenues of remote sensing (Earth observation) are quoted as $230 million in 2002 [3, note to Figure 7.2]. Annual government investment in space transport and in Earth observation is shown as $6 billion and $4 billion respectively [3, Figure 10.4]; roughly these rates of investment have continued for some 4 decades and 2 decades respectively. Cumulative public expenditure on these activities can therefore be estimated as having been of the order of $240 billion and $80 billion respectively. The ratios between commercial turnover and cumulative public investment in both cases are therefore approximately 0.3%.

NB These ratios do not represent sales revenues per unit of investment, nor a fortiori "return on investment". The ratios show the scale of annual commercial use of systems developed by government space agencies as a proportion of the cumulative quantity of taxpayers' resources allocated to the development and use of these systems by government space agencies themselves.

The OECD report also quotes two Nasa-funded estimates of the potential annual turnover of sub-orbital passenger flights as $700 million/year and $4 billion/year [3, p 122]. The investment needed to achieve this capability has been quoted as $120 million for the case of the planned "SpaceShipTwo" [5]. The estimated ratio of revenues : investment for sub-orbital passenger travel is therefore some 580 - 3300%.

The development cost and annual revenues of the " Kankoh-maru" orbital tourism vehicle were estimated as part of the Japanese Rocket Society's 1993-2002 Space Tourism Research Programme as $12 billion and $17 billion/year respectively, for a fleet of 52 vehicles carrying 700,000 passengers/year [6]. These estimates have been broadly endorsed by experts on vertical take-off and landing vehicles in Europe and USA [7, 8]. Table 1 summarises this data and shows the ratio of commercial revenues to investment for each of these four activities.

InvestmentCommercial revenuesRatio

Space Transport $240 bn $0.7 bn/yr 0.3%
Earth observation $80 bn $0.23 bn/yr 0.3%
Sub-orbital passenger travel $0.12 bn* $0.7 - 4 bn/yr 580% - 3300%
Orbital passenger travel (estimated) $12 bn** $17 bn/yr** 140%

Table 1: Ratio of Commercial Revenues to Investment for Selected Space Activities

Even allowing for the approximate nature of the comparison in Table 1, the difference of more than 1,000 times in the ratio between annual commercial revenues and investment for existing space agency activities and for passenger launch vehicles is very striking. It would be interesting to make a more accurate estimate of the proportion of cumulative public expenditure on space transport and Earth observation that should correctly be identified as investment, in order to make a fairer comparison with passenger travel. However, this proportion would surely not be as low as 10%; consequently the relevant figures for commercial revenues/investment for current space activities would still be less than 1% of those estimated for passenger space flight services.

The reliability of the estimates in the last two rows is also unknown, although those for sub-orbital flights are presumably more accurate due to the actual experience already being accumulated. Nevertheless, the prima facie comparison shown in Table 1 clarifies that, from the point of view of contributing to economic growth, space agencies' policy not to develop passenger space travel is anomalous. That is, their failure to make any investment even in developing vehicles suitable for sub-orbital passenger travel services, while investing heavily in activities which are economically very unpromising, is clearly far from maximising the economic benefit from public investment in civil space activities.

As shown in the last row of Table 1, market research suggests that the potential demand for orbital passenger space travel (ie using reusable vehicles) is several times greater than that for sub-orbital flights. The time-scale required to achieve orbital passenger flight services is estimated variously as 10 years [8] and 17 years [9]. The investment needed is variously estimated as some $5 - $20 billion [6, 7, 8, 9]; notably, this is less than a single year of OECD space agency expenditure today. Extrapolation of the JRS scenario suggests that a market of $100 billion/year could be reached within 30 years [2].

In view of this apparent potential, the lack of any detailed feasibility studies of developing passenger space travel services, either sub-orbital or orbital, performed by government space agencies in Europe, USA or Japan, all of which have legal responsibility to encourage commercial space activities inter alia, indicates that they are very far from performing the task that they claim to have been doing for 40 years – performing space activities for the benefit of taxpayers.

It is also important to note that commercial sub-orbital space travel services using reusable vehicles could have started more than 30 years ago, even during the "Apollo project", since the X-15 experimental rocket-plane exceeded the performance required during the 1960s. Not having developed this activity and benefited from its growth represents a cost to society, since the public investment used to create the relevant technological know-how has still not been used to earn the economic return that is potentially possible. In order to estimate this cost it is necessary to estimate the lost economic growth that could have been achieved in this way through the past 30 years. This in turn depends on how far the activity, including spin-off activities, could have grown, and what activities have been developed instead.

2.2) Need for New Industries

The potential for growth of passenger space travel services has particular significance today due to the exceptionally poor state of the world economy - notably the highest level of unemployment worldwide for decades. The current unprecedented "jobless recovery" in the USA; the highest levels of unemployment in Japan for 50 years; chronically high unemployment in France and Germany that is now causing political instability - all testify to the lack of new industries, to the lack of apparent new business opportunities, and to the urgency of the need for appropriate policy-measures to identify and encourage the growth of promising new industries.

At such a time of abnormally high unemployment around the world, economic policy makers recognise the need to stimulate the growth of new industries. These are needed more than in the past to employ people displaced from older industries as overall productivity rises and "globalisation" proceeds – recently accelerated by the rapid economic growth in countries with much lower salary-levels, such as India and China. However, in published lists of industries with potential to grow substantially in coming decades - which typically include information technologies, environmental businesses, tourism, bio-engineering, nano-technology, robotics, health care, continuing education, entertainment, etc - space travel is rarely if ever even mentioned.

Yet the figures quoted above suggest that passenger space travel could become a very significant industry within the next few decades if even a few percent of governments' current level of investment in space activities were devoted to it - instead of the zero funding allocated to it today. That is, only a small investment is required to start benefiting from the development of passenger space flight services; the required funding is a small percentage even of existing government budgets for civilian space activities. The current zero funding is not the result of cost-benefit analysis of such an initiative, but merely of the resistance to innovation by space agencies and space policy makers.

In addition to the potential shown in Table 1, such activities would reduce the cost of access to low Earth orbit to some hundreds of Euros/kg - about 1% of existing launch costs. This would greatly reduce the cost of most space activities and make many new activities economic that are currently uneconomic. By making a range of new resources and new territory economically accessible to private citizens and companies for the first time, this development would have potentially even greater importance than the development of the new industry of space tourism alone, however large that activity may grow. This potential is particularly significant in view of alarming trends in the direction in which global politics are drifting.

This problem is well expressed in the phrase used by the then president of the EU, Jacques Delors: "The coming resource wars of the 21st century". This viewpoint foresees a struggle between the few rich and the ever more numerous poor over use of "the limited resources of Earth", leading to long-term planning by the rich countries to keep their disproportionately large share. Such a vision of the future is not only itself tragic, it is also shocking that the views of such a senior political leader about such an important matter are so mistaken. This is because, with investment of just a fraction of the military budgets being used to maintain military superiority, launch costs can be cut drastically, and the resources economically available to humans will become unlimited – thereby removing any need to make plans for such a hideous future on Earth [2].

Another criticism that is sometimes made is to argue that it is absurd to suggest that "everyone will go to space". However, by analogy with emigration from Europe to America, only a tiny % of the European population needed to travel to the American continent to have a hugely positive influence on economic growth both in America and in Europe. The main difference in the present case is that the new resources and territory becoming newly accessible are potentially unlimited. It is not possible to make detailed projections about the social value of developing along this path; however, there are reasons to expect that it will have a range of valuable educational and cultural influences, as discussed in [2].

3) Obstacles to Progress

Unfortunately there are a number of serious obstacles that have so far prevented the realisation of the potential economic and social benefits of developing space tourism services.

3.1) Governments' reliance on monopoly space agencies

The major obstacle to governments implementing space policies that contribute to economic growth is their dependence on their space agencies for commercialisation of space activities. Social scientists have long understood that monopoly organisations, whether private or public, suffer from the weaknesses of high costs and resistance to innovation. The private flight to orbit made in 2001 by Dennis Tito aboard essentially the same rocket as that used by Gagarin in 1961 demonstrated beyond any argument that the cost of traveling to space has not fallen at all in more than 40 years - despite OECD governments' space agencies having spent some 1 trillion Euro-equivalents during that time! The R7 rocket, the first rocket ever to launch a payload to orbit, which is the basis of the Soyuz rocket today, remains the lowest-cost and most reliable launch vehicle in the world. This very striking example of decades-long stagnation and high costs has a number of important implications, two of which are mentioned briefly here:

  1. First, space agencies have clearly not been trying to reduce the cost of traveling to space. It is merely common sense that by using even a small fraction of the 1 trillion Euro-equivalents that space agencies have used, the cost of space travel could be reduced below that of a vehicle designed 50 years ago. The fact that space agencies have never even performed a feasibility study of passenger space travel, despite their own poor economic performance shown in Table 1, is testimony to their complete lack of interest or effort in this direction.

  2. It is equally clear that there is great potential for reduction of space travel costs by applying some of the flood of new technological know-how that has been developed since the 1950s (when the R-7 rocket was developed) to reducing the cost of space travel. The June 21 sub-orbital space flight made by "SpaceShipOne" was a small-scale demonstration of just a small part of this potential: its total development cost of some $20 million is what OECD governments' space agencies spend every few hours - or about 0.1% of one year's budget for non-science activities. The use of a significant fraction of space agencies' budget for the goal of reducing the cost of space travel would clearly allow dramatically greater progress to be made.

OECD space agencies are required by their terms of reference to encourage the growth of commercial space activities. Unfortunately, the fact that the most commercially promising activities are different from space agencies' traditional activities of designing and launching satellites on expendable rockets creates a conflict of interest among their leaders and space policy-makers, who wish to be seen to continue using systems which agencies have already developed. In the absence of effective pressure from economic policy-makers they "resolve" this conflict by preventing innovative work to develop economically valuable new activities, and suppressing discussion of the subject.

The space agency paradigm established during the Cold War was to use government budgets to perform government tasks and "missions"; however, these activities have little economic value. Even if governments' political objectives lead them to support continued expenditure on these activities, it is desirable from the point of view of economic policy that the potential of more economically valuable activities should be acknowledged, and appropriate funding provided for such activities which are not being supported by space agencies.

3.2) Space Agencies' Policy Not to Develop Space Travel

The situation described above need not in itself be so costly; however, it is aggravated by the historical accident that space policy makers have chosen not to invest in making space accessible to the public. Hence, a second major obstacle to realising the benefits of developing passenger space travel services is government space agencies' long-standing policy not to invest in developing passenger space vehicles. As seen in Table 1 above, the evidence that passenger space travel is potentially more economically valuable than existing space activities is easily found - including in [3]. Moreover, in 1998 this potential was formally acknowledged by NASA in [10]; by the AIAA, in a report which stated: "In light of its great potential, public space travel should be viewed as the next large, new area of commercial space activity" in [11]; and by the Japan Federation of Economic Organisations which stated: "Space tourism is expected to give a strong impetus to the commercialization of space activities" in [12]. However, none of these organisations took any further action to realise this potential; for example, NASA has still not implemented any of the long list of recommendations in its own 1998 report [10], and it has not been pressed to do so by the politicians who nominally oversee it. Other OECD countries have taken essentially the same attitude; the British National Space Agency's avoidance of supporting research on this subject is, for example, briefly described in [13].

The value of developing renewable sub-orbital passenger vehicles has been corroborated by more recent studies, such as that by the US Department of Commerce which stated in 2002: "Understanding the full significance of sub-orbital RLV (reusable launch vehicle) development requires recognition not only of what sub-orbital RLVs may accomplish in their own right, but also of their significance as a transitional step towards orbital RLV development. . . an operational sub-orbital RLV. . will provide a technology "stepping-stone" towards orbital RLV development . .and will pave the roadway for appropriate RLV regulatory, insurance and financial policies and strategies" [14]. The 2002-3 "Analysis of Space Concepts Enabled by New Transportation" (ASCENT) study performed for Nasa concluded from market research that there are large markets for both orbital and sub-orbital passenger flight services, even at the high prices which the study assumed would continue through the early stages of these services [15].

3.3) Economic Policy-Makers' Lack of Awareness

A third major obstacle to fully realising the potential socio-economic benefits of developing passenger space travel services is the lack of awareness among economic policy-makers of the potential value of doing so. The lack of discussion of the economic potential of passenger space travel in both the US government's revised space policy announced in early 2004, and the formal EU/ESA collaboration in space activities published in 2003 [16], are testimony to the lack of awareness of this potential among economic policy-makers. Not having expertise in space activities, they closely follow the guidance of those with some experience of "space policy", without making allowance, as they should, for the cumulative influence of space agencies' monopoly role over the past few decades. This oversight is not excusable, since space agencies' resistance to innovation, which the available evidence suggests is contrary to the economic interest of the general public, is typical of poorly supervised government organisations, as described by Niskanen in his economic analysis of the behaviour of bureaucratic organisations [17].

One of the difficulties of improving the situation is that most people with space expertise depend on funding from space agencies, either directly or indirectly, and so they have an economic interest in the continuation of the status quo. The most basic principles of economic analysis require the recognition of the influence of such economic interests on these peoples' views; the problem is aggravated by the several decades of space agencies' monopoly role. In view of the acknowledged potential for growth of commercial space travel services, it is clearly very unsatisfactory that these monopolistic agencies to which governments have given responsibility for space commercialisation refuse to even discuss the possibility. Such economically damaging behaviour belies the trust which government and the public have put in their space agencies for advice concerning the potential economic value of space development.

In order for economic policy-makers to achieve greater success in counteracting the dangerous levels of unemployment around the world, amongst other problems, they need to be aware of the growth potential of different industries. Hence it is desirable to inform economic policy-makers of the potential to develop a major new aerospace-based service industry of passenger space travel - about which space policy-makers have not informed them due to their reluctance to see this field of activity grow. A major objective of economic policy is to enhance economic growth, and it could apparently be substantially improved by correcting this flaw in existing arrangements for government investment in space activities.

Consequently, OECD governments should publicly recognise the potentially great economic value of developing passenger space travel services, as already acknowledged in published reports - and specifically recommended in NASA's report on the subject [10] – and they should make effective investments to realise it as soon as possible. Among other institutional changes, collaboration between civil aviation and the space industry is desirable for this purpose. That is, it would be effective if OECD governments' space policies were much closer to their policies towards civil aviation than their present structure, which was established under the influence of the cold war. By way of illustration, the US government's FAA and NASA have roughly similar budgets; however the FAA oversees a commercial industry with revenues of several hundred billion dollars/year, and creating employment for millions of US citizens, as well as many more abroad - while NASA heads no comparable industry. Thus it would be much more valuable if OECD governments' space policies were explicitly aimed at achieving a successful, growing commercial space travel industry, rather than giving priority to funding the internal objectives of government space agencies.

Institutional arrangements are different in each country, and so the most appropriate policy actions differ from country to country. However, in many cases it would be most effective for governments to fund the development of passenger space travel capabilities separately from space agencies, and primarily via civil aviation organisations [18, 19]. This approach would have a number of benefits:

  1. It would benefit from positive institutional motivation, since it matches the existing objective of the civil aviation industry to expand commercial services, as shown by the lead already being taken in advocating passenger space travel in the USA by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and in Japan by the Japanese Aeronautical Association (JAA). (NB this advocacy is not yet backed by significant government funding to assist the development of these new services.)

  2. It would avoid the deep conflicts of interest that are unavoidable in requiring space agencies to do work that they have spontaneously resisted for several decades.

  3. It would introduce competition into government funding of civilian space activities, which have been dominated by national monopolies throughout their more than 40 years of history, and have experienced stagnation in the cost of traveling to space throughout that time.

Overall, governments need to acknowledge that current institutional arrangements are very far from achieving the full socio-economic benefits that are apparently possible from commercial space activities. Any impartial study of how to improve the current situation would recognise that the current monopoly source of funding for civilian space activities is a significant cause of the decades-long lack of progress towards the popular and economically promising new service industry of passenger space travel.

3.4) Misleading Optimism

A fourth obstacle to governments implementing sound policies towards achieving the widespread economic benefits of developing passenger space travel services is the unjustified optimism about the prospects for existing space activities regularly shown in official reports. As a recent example showing that this weakness is not confined to space agencies' literature, the OECD report mentioned above exhibits a number of the weakneses of official discussion of space activities, notably in the form of unrealistically rosy descriptions of the commercial potential of space-based Earth observation services. Such comments as "The longer term future of the sector is promising . . when all main segments of the space sector (ie military space, civil space and commercial space) are taken into account" and ". . information-intensive applications such as satellite-based . . Earth observation . . have a bright future" [3] give a quite false impression. The truth is to the contrary: as seen in Table 1, tens of billions of Euro-equivalents have been invested in building tens of satellites, but commercial revenues are extremely low, and far below forecast levels. For example, the UK parliamentary Trade and Industry Committee's 2000 report on the British space industry described the policy of having invested some 1 billion Euro-equivalents on Earth observation satellite systems as having "failed" in view of the very low sales revenues achieved, far below the published forecasts used to justify the investment as being "commercial" [20].

It should be noted that although commercial use of Earth observation services has not been growing significantly, military use has. Whether sales revenues come from the military, from other branches of government, or from consumer demand (either directly or indirectly) may be of no importance to companies providing launch services. Moreover, such subsidies by space agencies for other government activities may be justified according to strategic and/or cost-benefit analysis. However, from the point of view of contributing to economic growth these different sources of demand are of very different value. This is because the self-sustaining growth of commercial demand, whether for space-related or for other services is, in itself, economic growth, while increased government expenditure is not.

Consequently, in order to provide valuable advice on how to achieve economic benefit from public investment in space activites, a report from the OECD should distinguish clearly between commercial space activities and government-funded activities, even where the latter lead to greater revenues of commercial aerospace companies. That is, the low level of commercial revenues is an important weakness of the space industry which should not be obscured by reference to growth of military expenditures. "Military space budgets are growing, so there is no need to investigate potentially promising new commercial space markets" may be a sound business policy for certain aerospace companies, but it is clearly not satisfactory as economic policy aimed at stimulating economic growth at a time of unusually high unemployment in OECD countries and around the world.

The tendency for reporting of space agencies' activities to be "rose tinted" is seen in much of the media, due in significant part to space agencies habit of holding invitation-only press conferences. In view of the central importance of free and accurate information flows for the effective operation of both capitalist and democratic systems, all such practices which clearly distort information flows systematically are very undesirable and tend to reduce constructive criticism. It is of course for this reason that they are so widely used.

The OECD report also stated blandly: " . . given the expectation that the cost of access to space is unlikely to decline drastically over the period [ie until 2030]" [3]. This statement begs a most important question, since it does not state on what information this expectation is based. Presumably it is the assumption that OECD governments' space policies will not change. However, all that is needed for the cost of access to space to "decline drastically over the period" is for investment to be made in developing a reusable passenger launch vehicle equal to approximately 1% of the cumulative investment that government space agencies would make over the period if their budgets remained approximately constant in real terms. This investment would presumably not occur if government economic policy makers remained unaware of the potential economic benefits of making it, and if space agencies continued to invest heavily only in commercially unpromising activities. Consequently it would be economically valuable for such a report published by the OECD to inform economic policy makers of the potentially large contribution to socio-economic development that could be achieved by making such an investment. They could then take steps to ensure that this investment was undertaken. Despite the difficulties of reconciling different viewpoints, the OECD should not play the role of providing a "fig-leaf" for the economically very unsatisfactory policies pursued for decades in relation to space activities.

4) Prospects in Japan

In Japan as elsewhere, if the objective of contributing to the economy was given any weight, the main goal of space policy should be to assist the growth of a private space travel industry – similar to airlines. However, as in other OECD countries, the government's space policy is contrary to this objective. In this respect the Japanese space industry is a microcosm of the Japanese economy as a whole, in which huge amounts of taxpayers' money are spent with no priority given to contributing to economic growth. This situation is maintained by strong resistance within the government and its supporters in industry to the widely-recognised need for change in many areas. Those benefiting from the flows of government money to activities that are of little economic value have great influence to continue these flows and prevent support for more valuable activities.

To date, Japanese government space development activities have received 4 trillion Yen of taxpayers' money, but the turnover of commercial space activities is barely 100 billion Yen/year – just a few percent. However, despite having run up the largest government debt in the OECD (160% of GDP), which is growing at the fastest rate (8%/year), in early 2005 the Japanese government announced plans to spend further trillions of Yen on existing uneconomic space activities, and effectively nothing on what is widely recognised as the most commercially promising activity. It is not surprising that commentators continue to be gloomy about the prospects for economic recovery in Japan, in view of such costly domination of government policy-making by short-term special interest groups.

However, the prospects for the development of passenger space travel services in Japan are somewhat improved by the growing interest being shown by a number of entrepreneurial companies in participating in some way in the development of this promising new industry. It remains to be seen whether they will generate sufficient activity to stimulate real change, or whether they will follow the pattern of civil aviation and collaborate with foreign manufacturers in importing and operating vehicles made abroad at lower cost than the domestic aerospace industry. The remaining time during which Japanese manufacturers might establish a significant competitive advantage in this field is now quite limited.

5) Summary

Governments' institutional arrangements in all fields are subject to the need for periodic revision in response to external socio-economic changes. Existing arrangements for government investment in civilian space activities have clearly failed to realise what space agencies themselves ackowledge to be the most economically promising activity of commercial passenger space travel services [3]. This poor performance is contrary to the relative success of governments' decades-long investment in the development of commercial passenger air travel services. This anomalous result strongly suggests the need for appropriate change in existing institutional arrangements for funding civil space activities.

The simple fact that passenger space travel services have still not yet been developed, despite the small scale of the investment required, and despite their evident feasibility for more than 30 years, is strong evidence of the ineffectiveness of existing policies. The fact that, in addition, the agencies which governments have established to achieve economic benefits from space refuse to even discuss the subject is proof that institutional changes are necessary if this economically promising new industry is to achieve its potential. In the current economic situation, in which unemployment in both OECD countries and around the world is at the highest levels for decades, specifically due to inadequate development of new industries in OECD countries, it would be very undesirable to permit this situation to continue.

The full development of commercial space travel services will require cooperation between civil aviation and people with space engineering experience. In the near term, the quickest way of making progress towards achieving the socio-economic benefits arising from such services will be to fund civil aviation organisations to develop passenger space vehicles and put them into operation. This will involve not only manufacturing companies, operating companies, insurance companies and a range of other commercial services, but also implementation of safety and other regulations mainly by government organisations. Though clearly requiring innovation, there is no reason to doubt the ability of the civil aviation industry to achieve this.

  1. T Kuhn, 1962, "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions", Chicago University Press.
  2. P Collins, 2004, "Space Tourism: Recent Progress and Future Prospects", Space Technology and Applications International Forum (STAIF-2004); also at space_tourism_recent_progress_and_future_prospects.shtml
  3. M Andrieu, 2004, " Space 2030: Exploring the Future of Space Applications", OECD, Paris.
  4. W Ferster, 2004, "Satellite Industry Revenue Jumps 6 Percent in 2003", Space News, Vol 15, No 23, p 9.
  5. S Reiss, 2005, "Rocket Man", Wired, January;
  6. K Isozaki et al, 1998, "Status Report on Space Tour Vehicle Kankoh-Maru of Japanese Rocket Society", IAF paper no IAA-98-IAA.1.5.06; also at status_report_on_space_tour_vehicle_kankoh_maru_of_japanese_rocket_society.shtml
  7. D Koelle, 1998, "A Cost Engineered Launch Vehicle for Space Tourism", IAA-98-IAA.1.5.07; also at
  8. I Bekey, 1998, "Economically Viable Public Space Travel", Proceedings of 49th IAF Congress; also at
  9. D Ashford, 2003, "Spaceflight Revolution", Imperial College Press, London.
  10. O'Neil et al, 1998, "General Public Space Travel and Tourism - Volume 1 Executive Summary", NASA/STA, NP-1998-03-11-MSFC; also at
  11. M Gerard and P Jefferson (eds), 1998, " International Cooperation in Space: New Government and Industry Relationships", Report of an AIAA/ CEAS/ CASI workshop, AIAA; also downloadable from
  12. Anon, 1998, " Space in Japan", Space Activities Promotion Council, Japan Federation of Economic Organisations, p 11.
  13. P Collins, 2002, "Meeting the Needs of the New Millennium: Passenger Space Travel and World Economic Growth", Space Policy, Vol 18, No 3, pp 183-97; also at archive/meeting_the_needs_of_the_new_millennium_passenger_space_travel_and_world_economic_growth.shtml
  14. US Department of Commerce, 2002, " Suborbital Reusable Launch Vehicles and Applicable Markets", DoC Office of Space Commercialisation, October.
  15. Futron Corporation, 2003, "ASCENT Study Final Report - Executive Summary"; also at
  16. European Union, 2003, " Space: A New European Frontier for an Expanding Union: An Action Plan for Implementing the European Space Policy", EU White Paper, Brussels;
  17. W Niskanen, 1971, " Bureaucracy and Representative Government", Edward Elgar Press, reprinted in Bureaucracy and Public Economics, 1996.
  18. Y Funatsu, 2002, "Interests of Japanese Airlines in Space", ISTS 2002-o-5-06v; also at
  19. P Collins & Y Funatsu, 1999, "Collaboration with Aviation - The Key to Commercialisation of Space Activities", IAF Congress paper No. IAA-99-IAA.1.3.03, also at archive/collaboration_with_aviation_the_key_to_commercialisation_of_space_activities.shtml
  20. House of Commons Trade and Industry Committee, 2000, "Tenth Report",
P Collins, 2003, "The Potential Importance of Passenger Space Travel Services", Published in The Journal of Space Technology and Science, Vol 19, No 1, pp 17-26, 2003 (actually 2005)..
Also downloadable from potential importance of passenger space travel services.shtml

 Bibliographic Index
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