With the advent of satellite constellations and habitable bases, space logistics is an emerging niche within the industry. While the core of logistics remains the same, whether in space or on Earth, more stringent constraints and extreme conditions challenge the safe transport, storage, and delivery of materials and products beyond Earth’s atmosphere and back.
Key Developments & Implications
The last crewed lunar landing was in 1972, and with technological advancement and successes in the last decade, the vision of living and colonizing space has slowly reawakened. This ushers in a potential niche market for the logistics industry. With exciting developments in the private and public sector, there are growing questions that need to be answered for space logistics to be successful and sustainable in the future:
- How will supply lines be planned and managed?
- How will the accumulation of space debris be curbed and reversed?
- As launch rates and emissions increase, are there more sustainable ways to transport objects into space?
- How can products be packaged to survive zero-gravity environments with exposure to high radiation and extreme temperatures?
Still, despite the change of location, distances, and gravitational levels, at its core the basic problem to be addressed by space logistics remains the same as on Earth – delivering shipments from point A to point B in a secure, on-time, and cost-effective manner.
Satellite logistics is the newest facet of the logistics industry with tens of thousands of low- and medium-Earth-orbit (LEO and MEO) satellites to be launched in the next few years. Expansive constellations of hundreds to thousands of linked orbiters are planned to provide various services from global internet provision to data collection, and many operators are seeking viability but cutting launch, operational, and decommissioning costs.
Supplying cargo will be crucial to expanding human presence in space. There is the challenging task of carefully transporting everything into space (upmass) – provisions, fuel, equipment, materials, and waste – and, in some cases, back down to Earth (downmass).
Furthermore, limited space and weight capacity on rockets and shuttles will hinder cost reductions through economies of scale. Despite these constraints, rewards at this early stage can be great. As a result, excitement in the private sector has increased, and several companies have since proposed bigger space transport vehicles to hold more passengers and cargo.
Talk to an Expert
Innovation Project Manager
DHL Innovation Center, Troisdorf
Jordan Toy is an Innovation Project Manager. He merges his technical background with his passions for sustainability and human-centered design to drive projects from ideas to real-world pilots within logistics operations. His interests are multifaceted and span from robotics to quantum computing and from green energy to the future of work.
Jordan has over 6 years of experience in the logistics, transportation and civil engineering industries. He is based in the DHL Innovation Center in Troisdorf, Germany.