The return of humankind to the Moon or satellite constellations… These are the challenges and opportunities of the future in space

April 3, 2024

At the dawn of civilisation, humankind was already looking up at the sky with admiration and curiosity, seeking to understand the vast universe around us. Since then, we have come a long way, with major milestones such as the Perseverance rover mission to Mars or the discovery of water on the moon a few years ago. Throughout this journey of discovery and exploration, aerospace activity has played a pivotal role, connecting people, driving research and improving safety.

One of the most obvious signs of progress in this field is the proliferation of satellites in orbit, from just a few in 1957 to more than 11,000 by 2024. This technology continues to evolve, with satellite constellations now being developed to provide global communications coverage.


What is currently driving the growth of the aerospace sector?

Several key factors are at play, including the high degree of maturity of the industry, the increase in private funding and the shortening of product development and life cycles. In addition, the emergence of new concepts such as “Cubesats” (20 years ago) and, more recently, satellite constellations and “rideshare” launchers, have created new possibilities and markets for space exploration.

Another business area, such as the return of humankind to the Moon and its colonisation, is growing thanks to millionaire investments flowing towards companies that are building reusable rockets and specially designed space capsules or artificial habitats, as is the case with the international ARTEMIS project. Mineral exploitation on extra-planetary bodies, such as the Moon, is still at an embryonic stage, focused on probing, prospecting and characterisation. Space tourism is another growing business in the sector. Connected to all these opportunities, new relevant challenges for the future of space are emerging.


Five main challenges facing the aerospace industry in 2024

  • International rules and regulations: The absence of an international framework to regulate the exploration and exploitation of space resources could generate conflicts due to the economic incentives involved. The UN report ‘For All Humanity – The Future of Outer Space Governance’ highlights in this process the need for a unified space sustainability system or new governance frameworks among States to take advantage of the opportunities offered by space and mitigate the associated risks. These risks include the increase in the number of satellites in orbit, which requires greater coordination of space traffic and the creation of an international platform to monitor and mitigate the risks of accidents and collisions, or the absence of an international mechanism to monitor and eliminate space debris.


  • Sustainability: Management of resources in orbit is not the only important issue. With every space launch, fossil fuels are consumed and greenhouse gases are emitted, contributing to climate change. In addition, rocket debris returning to Earth after launch can have an environmental impact in the oceans and on land. These challenges have motivated the industry to pursue more sustainable alternatives, such as the use of reusable rockets, cleaner fuels or the controlled return of discarded modules.


  • Safe access: Artemis II, NASA’s mission that intends to take four astronauts around the Moon for 10 days, is scheduled over the next few years. However, these missions involve certain risks that must be taken into consideration. For example, during the first mission test, the size and number of pieces of the heat shield that detached were larger and more numerous than initially expected. In this regard, with the advancement and development of human space exploration, it is essential to minimise the risks associated with the launch and operation of space vehicles, such as rockets and satellites.


  • Autonomy in space: Technological autonomy in the access to space is a critical aspect of any country’s or region’s space policy, as it concerns the ability to launch satellites, spacecraft and other payloads into space without technological dependence on third countries. In 2024, Europe is working to reinforce its autonomous access to space through the maiden flight of Ariane 6 and the resumption of Vega-C flights, as well as by supporting private initiatives for small launchers. With them, it hopes to strengthen its position in the global launch market and ensure its autonomous access to space in order to have greater control over its space operations and reduce its dependence on other countries for access to space.


  • Public-private collaboration: Whether through public sector support to the private sector or the involvement of private companies in public programmes, cooperation between the two types of entities is vital to carry out ambitious research and development projects. In this regard, different programmes are being implemented with the aim of stimulating public-private financing of space projects. An example of this is the CanarySat telecommunications satellite constellation, in which ARQUIMEA, as a private investor, has public co-financing from the Island Council of Tenerife.


ARQUIMEA, a technology company active in high-value technology sectors such as aerospace, is working to develop the future of space. The Spanish technology company has already participated in more than 160 space missions and has delivered more than 20,000 components and systems for the development of various projects.

Learn more about the involvement of ARQUIMEA technologies in space missions such as Copernicus.