Swiss space sector looking to build upon its leading position

21 June 2024 13:02

Swissmem SSIG

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Bern - Switzerland is already one of the most important locations for the space industry. The reduced cost of rocket launches is leading to opportunities, such as new partners and applications as well as increasing standardization. The Swiss Space Industries Group is keen to increase the visibility of the industry.

The space industry is talking about a “revolution in space”: With rockets now able to be recycled more frequently, launches are becoming far more cost-effective and the number of components that can be brought into space is increasing. At the same time, ever more private players are now starting to enter a market that has been dominated by authorities such as NASA in the USA and its European counterpart the ESA for a prolonged period of time.

“There are opportunities in this market that previously did not exist”, said Thomas Zurbuchen, erstwhile Scientific Director of NASA and Head of ETH Zurich Space since 2023, at the half-yearly meeting of the Swiss Space Industries Group (Swissmem SSIG) in Bern. Many new players have entered the market, he stated. Thanks to cheaper launches, new applications can be brought into space, while products for space are becoming increasingly standardized too.

According to Zurbuchen, today, Switzerland is already one of the most important locations for space technologies. However, he went on to explain that if the country wants to get even further ahead, it needs one thing above all else: speed.

In view of the revolution in space, the industry requires experts with the ability to build whole systems. For this reason, ETH is launching the Specialised Master in Space Systems study program, for which the first 35 students have now been enrolled.

Organizations such as the ESA remain important for the industry. David Blum from the Swiss Space Office, which is part of the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI), spoke about the second round of the ESA’s Scout missions. Across a period of three years, Earth observation projects are being funded to the tune of up to 35 million euros; calls for tenders for the second round are now in progress.

Colonel in the General Staff Ludovic Monnerat, Head of the Space Domain of the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport (DDPS), highlighted that space is becoming increasingly important for both civilian and military applications. As such, developing operational capabilities in the space sector is one way in which the army is evolving. Competencies for creating a situation report, gathering intelligence, command support and precision navigation must, in the view of Ludovic Monnerat, also be amassed in Switzerland to facilitate the implementation of both active and passive defense measures - especially in times of crisis. Initial capabilities, such as observing satellites in space, have already been developed with Swiss companies, he explained.

Didier Manzoni is confident about the future of the industry. “We have nearly everything we need in Switzerland to achieve success in Space”, as the SSIG President and Deputy CEO of APCO Technologies explains. Moving forward, SSIG’s ambition is to increase the visibility of this to the outside world. ce/stk

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