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“Space inclusion” may be an unfamiliar phrase to some. For us at E-Space, it means ensuring everyone has an opportunity to access the space domain to grow and thrive. That includes nations, enterprises, small businesses, communities and people. Inclusion also means addressing the exclusionary actions of the past and of today, to enable inclusivity of the domain for all.  

History is full of examples of people, big corporations and nations rushing in to grab resources at the expense of others. The story follows a familiar pattern: Wealthy parties exploit their advantage of being first in, freezing out less-advantaged parties. They then act with reckless abandon due to the lack of regulation or authority, which then requires “clean-up” via new rules and tighter controls that are too often late to the game.  

Today, we’re watching this scenario unfold in real-time in space. Low Earth orbit (LEO) is beginning to fill up with satellite constellations from a handful of rich corporations and spacefaring nations, without global regulation. This is creating a serious risk to the future of space due to the increase of potential spacecraft collisions but also by creating a space environment of “haves” versus “have nots.”  

Without a global, regulatory framework to allow for equitable access to space, the disparity between these two groups will widen. Even worse, it can end up becoming permanent, leaving the “have nots” further behind — economically, socially and digitally.

Space inclusion is also important for disadvantaged nations because they’ve got something positive to add, bringing their own ingenuity and set of needs to create even more beneficial uses for space. If they’re edged out, we’ll miss out on those valuable contributions while they are deprived of the significant benefits space enables. Those include:

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a broad term that encapsulates billions of devices connected to the internet that collect and share data around the world. Familiar IoT devices in the home include the smart thermostat on the wall, the voice-controlled kitchen lights or the garage door controlled with an app. IoT also incorporates industrial sensors that can share enormously valuable information such as the workings of an aircraft engine, the amount of wheat in a grain silo or the status of a driverless car.  

Kevin Ashton, who’s credit with coining the term, defines IoT like this:

“The IoT integrates the interconnectedness of human culture — our 'things' — with the interconnectedness of our digital information system — 'the internet.' That's the IoT.”  

It’s estimated there are over 12 billion IoT connections in service today, with the number expected to grow to 27 billion by 2025. While the various uses and applications for these devices is almost limitless, they all share one thing: the need for connectivity.

Implicit in the term is both the strength and weakness of IoT: While the connection is what makes it possible, there are many areas of the world with little or no access to the internet. This points to the need for satellite connectivity as a way to bypass the limitations of terrestrial networks.

To-date, space-based IoT has only scratched the surface on how we can use collected data to make a sizable impact on Earth or in business. Devices that can communicate in real-time have a great deal more value than many of the ones in use today that only “beep” basic information when in contact with a satellite passing overhead. Only a satellite constellation with global coverage can fully exploit the enormous potential of space-based IoT.

The concept behind what E-Space is doing is to transcend the limitations of terrestrial networks as well as those of traditional satellite systems. We’re fundamentally changing the design of legacy LEO space systems to deliver entirely new satellite capabilities at a fraction of the cost. By developing a global communications platform enabling a new class of ubiquitous, real-time communications and IoT services, we can support everything from basic messaging up to advanced voice, video and data communications.

The real-world implications of this are loaded with possibility, especially when it can be made affordable in the developing world. In Kenya, for example, smart handpumps are serving over 60,000 people in rural areas with water. The connectivity allows easy monitoring of the water stations and has reduced downtime significantly by alerting water managers if a pump is out of action. Add satellite and this technology can reach a far greater number of people.

The same is true for food systems management, where traceability enabled by technology has the potential to address food shortages simply by better tracking.  

Sovereign constellations  

Sovereign nations of all sizes are looking to space to provide connectivity for government, industry and their people. But today, it’s mostly only the wealthiest of nations that can afford to build out and manage their own satellite network.

E-Space’s Sovereign Constellation model will enable nations of all sizes to enjoy the benefits of a robust satellite network without the cost of legacy satellite systems. They can either purchase dedicated capacity from E-Space’s network or engage with us to build a constellation and ready a network for them to own and operate.

The ability to drive down cost with a Sovereign Constellation model, even for smaller nations, is essential for space inclusion. Once connected, they can use the power of communications and advanced IoT to minimize the use of resources, optimize manufacturing production, aid national defense and employ better agricultural and forestry management.

As the number of spacefaring nations continues to grow — with more than 10 having established national space agencies in the past six years alone — opportunities to leverage the power of space-based communications are becoming more widespread.  At E-Space, we’re ready to help that acceleration with our own smart platform for enabling widespread advanced IoT that will transform economies and governmental services; improve operational efficiencies and drive more informed decision-making; and protect the planet with ubiquitous sensor data to monitor, manage and solve known and undiscovered problems on Earth.

Climate change

On a global basis, E-Space will support real-time IoT connectivity to help combat climate change. As we know, many smaller nations suffer more from the impacts of climate change than the larger countries that created the bulk of the problem. By including them in space-based solutions to help mitigate those impacts as well as lessen their own carbon footprint, they will have a greater voice in the world on what’s arguably the most important topic on Earth.

Smart cities can use devices to measure and report on traffic patterns, public transportation routes and more to improve flow and save fuel. One estimate shows a potential savings of 750,000 million liters of gasoline in the next decade using IoT information.

With climate change, the more data points we can gather from oceans, forests, glaciers and other areas of concern, the more detailed the picture becomes. To attain that actionable data to arrive at solutions, the sensors and the associated connectivity must be inexpensive and able to scale — which are core goals at E-Space.

Amy Mehlman

Amy Mehlman is vice president, Global Affairs and Stakeholder Relations at E-Space. She is responsible for leading collaboration with international and domestic governments, partners and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to secure market access and establish international policies around space sustainability.