Here are some key documents from the archive to get you started:
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center awarded a contract to Futron Corporation in June 2001 to investigate the market environment, and explore the price elasticity attributes, relevant for the introduction of the Second Generation Reusable Launch Vehicle (the follow-on to the Space Shuttle) in the second decade of this century. This work is known as the ASCENT Study (Analysis of Space Concepts Enabled by New Transportation) and data collection for the different market sectors took place during 2001. Modeling and forecasting activities for 26 of these markets (all of them international in nature) have been taking place throughout 2002, and the final results of the ASCENT Study, which include 20 year forecasts, are due by the end of January, 2003. This paper describes the markets being analyzed for the ASCENT Study, and includes some preliminary findings in terms of launch vehicle demand during the next 20 years. Amongst these markets are the potential public space travel orbital opportunities. The Study will provide NASA with a quantified indication of the extent to which the lower cost to orbit, made possible by a new class of launch vehicle, will bring into being new markets.
An initial paper on this topic, which provided only an outline, was presented at the 1st AIAA/ IAF Symposium on Future Reusable Launch Vehicles in Huntsville, Alabama in April 2002. This paper provides more detail of the market segmentation that underpins the ASCENT Study, the method of data collection, and some initial forecasts derived from the collected data applied through demand forecasting models.
Since the contract was signed between Futron Corporation and NASA MSFC and work began on June 1st 2001 there have been a series of detailed documents provided to NASA as deliverables for project management purposes. This paper derives its content from the nine deliverable documents provided to MSFC up to mid July 2002.
The work up to this stage has not yet made any assumptions about changes in launch prices and so any results contained assume that prices are generally as are applied today. Subsequent stages of analysis under the ASCENT Study contract will explore the impact of significant reductions in launch prices; these findings will form part of the final deliverable document under this study, scheduled for end January 2003.
The work of the ASCENT Study has been carefully formulated so as to ensure that there can be no double - counting of market forecasts.
Originally at the outset of the study, 42 different market sectors were identified, but after a filter (based on reasonable expectation of demand within the next twenty years) was applied, 16 of these sectors, referred to as the Emerging Markets, were set aside from any quantification efforts at this stage. Work did continue, however, on a qualitative basis on these sectors so that forecasting can be carried out later, if required, for the period beyond the year 2021.
Of the remaining 26 sectors, which are being quantified under this ASCENT Study contract, they fall 50/50% into Commercial and Governmental categories.
The Governmental sectors include both military and civil applications (and as with the Commercial Sectors represent missions from all over the world). The forecasts for these governmental categories are largely supply-based and are derived from an ongoing monitoring of all possible published sources of mission models and announced intentions to proceed with launches.
The Commercial Sectors consist either of Existing commercial space markets (such as satellite telecommunications and video broadcasting), or the anticipated Evolving commercial markets that may possibly come into existence at some point during the next twenty years. Examples of these markets include Public Space Travel and On-Orbit Servicing and Salvage. The commercial markets in the ASCENT Study are forecasted by a set of individually developed demand-based forecast models. It is these Evolving commercial markets that are to be especially critically reviewed during the analysis process that assumes lower prices for payloads to orbit. This is in order to ascertain the extent to which the introduction of a new RLV with an order - of - magnitude improvement in price to orbit can enable the cost structure for the new potential markets to emerge profitably.
Raw data was collected for the ASCENT Study from a variety of sources, depending on the sector concerned, and whether it was an existing or evolving commercial sector, or belonged in a government classification.
A great deal of desk research was undertaken, including a massive literature search and a full study of website content. A series of interviews with experts were conducted and documented, and some surveys were carried out. Among the surveys was a major poll carried out amongst high net worth individuals to ascertain interest in public space travel. This work was specified by Futron Corp and conducted under subcontract by Zogby International and is therefore known as the Futron/Zogby Survey into Public Space Travel. Futron Corporation also conducted some surveys into niche markets on its own.
As has been explained previously, all work to date on the project assumes current launch prices. Therefore we do not yet find any significant contribution from the Evolving market sectors (except for the Public Space Travel sector).
In fact, the overall profile of launch numbers throughout the next twenty years remains almost constant through time with these assumptions. Overall global totals generally vary between about 60 and 80 launches per year without any noticeable trend. The twenty-year total of launches is about 1400, and sensitivity runs (that did not allow for changes in launch price) resulted in a high case with 26% more launches, and a low case with 18% less launches.
Further useful information has been established with respect to the mix of different sectors that is contributing to this demand. At the start of the period, the year 2001 data tells us that of 59 launches, 46 were for Governments, 13 were for Existing markets and of course 0 were for the Evolving markets. By the year 2020, out of 81 forecasted launches, 38 are for Governments, 21 are for the Existing commercial markets and 21 are from the new Evolving markets (mostly from the Public Space Travel sector and assumed to be Soyuz missions).
The basic data behind the Public Space Travel projections was obtained from the Futron/Zogby Survey into Public Space Travel, and the data points were significantly discounted for instance so that they only account for people with a net worth exceeding $200m (because the current price for an orbital public space flight is $20m and it is thought to be prudent to discount the positive interest statements from respondents who would need to pay out more than 10% of their net worth for a trip). Nevertheless, the indications are that dedicated Soyuz-type missions are tenable from around 2013, and furthermore the demand could reach approximately 50 passengers a year by 2020 even at these current prices, assuming that a destination like the ISS is available for the travelers.
As indicated earlier, the next steps in the ASCENT Study are to analyze the effect of changing launch prices on these forecasts, and then to assess how much market share the new RLV is likely to obtain.
The contract with MSFC requires the work of this project to be completed by end January 2003, by which time all of the results will be available in the final ASCENT Study report.
Initial results, which do not yet take into account the benefits in reducing price to orbit, indicate a generally unchanging long-term trend of between 60 and 80 launches per year globally. There are indications of a change in mix, however, with Public Space Travel becoming a possible generator of launch demand during the second decade of this Century.
The work described in this paper has been conducted as part of the ASCENT Study under contract with NASA MSFC, and thanks are hereby offered to the SLI Cost and Economics Department who are managing the project from Huntsville, Alabama.