Research at STIM focuses on creating an understanding of the mechanisms and dynamics of technology developments within the space sector. Because the space sector has its own unique market constraints, technologies are developed along different pathways than in terrestrial sectors. Understanding these unique pathways can lead to the identification of technologies which can dramatically improve upon the state of the art of technology capabilities and thus, disrupt the space sector. Using this understanding, the development of these technologies can be influenced and quickened by redirecting funding. Part of this initiative involves the following projects:
The exploration (and exploitation) of space has resulted in many technological advances for humanity in areas such as materials, navigation, telecommunications, medicine and many others. Improving the capabilities of space technologies in order to increase the benefits that the utilization of space can offer is a major goal of all space faring nations. Since the Apollo age, the space sector has concentrated mainly on a conservative method of technology development, focusing on low risk incremental and sustaining innovations, rather than on breakthrough, game changing, radical or disruptive innovations. One of the reasons for this situation is the fact that space technology development requires long and costly development phases with strict performance and environmental requirements. Another reason of this situation is the very high cost of space transportation. These two reasons have resulted in very stringent quality and flight heritage requirements for new technologies. This situation, in turn, has created a paradigm, where the usage of technologies with meager or non-existing flight heritage is discouraged and, consequently, new technologies do not gain flight heritage because they are not selected. Despite the existence of several projects that are trying to bridge this valley of death within technology evolution, many technologies still end up in the dust bin after substantial investments. Because of this, there is a clear requirement for an (early stage) identification of technologies that could significantly improve the capabilities of space applications, in order to allow these technologies to overcome the valley of death and eventually become fully developed. This identification of potential high-gain technologies can be achieved by mapping the factors that determine and influence the market potential of a technology. The most successful technologies will be disruptive to the state-of-the-art of space technologies and will therefore be called Disruptive Space Technologies (DSTs). The aim of this project is to create an understanding of the underlying processes that govern these technology disruptions in the space sector and to find potentially disruptive technologies.