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Want to discover what are the technological trends in the space sector and the applications dedicated to tourism? You've come to the right place!

“There's a silly notion that failure's not an option at NASA. Failure is an option here [at SpaceX]. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.” Elon Musk


Link between space and tourism – What is it?

In the collective mind, space tourism is, above all, a fantasy or an illusion. This business sector represents the opportunity of being able to fly into space, on the International Space Station (ISS), to Mars or the Moon. Overall, space tourism includes all of the training, experiences and sensational flights that allow private individuals to travel in space for non-professional reasons.

On 13 December 2018, Virgin Galactic achieved its first space flight.” 

The invention of space tourism dates back to 2013; the year when Dennis Tito, the first tourist in space, was able to spend six days on the ISS. Since then, the space industry has developed greatly, and ambitious projects have seen the light of day. The most famous include: the Google Lunar X Prize, which abandoned its “NewSpace” mission in January 2018, Virgin Galactic founded by Richard Branson and the lunar project Space X created by Elon Musk. The most advanced is still Virgin Galactic, which is aiming for a suborbital flight… A flight that will be sufficiently fast to clear the 100 km of altitude required to reach zero gravity. On 13 December 2018, Virgin Galactic managed is first flight in space, at an altitude of more than 80 km, with its shuttle SpaceShipTwo that will be capable, in the future, of carrying passengers on-board. The space industry is therefore not short of craft, which are revolutionising the idea of space tourism becoming a reality.

The award for most promising newcomer goes to… the start-up Zephyr Exalto for its Zephyr Endless Flight project that by 2021 will be offering trips to the stratosphere—on the edge of space—in a balloon, using only solar energy and the winds at high altitude.

However, space as a destination remains a dream for most French people and an innovation to develop for companies.

A second aspect of the space industry that relates directly to tourism is however more advanced and practical: the space technologies used by the tourist sector on Earth. Indeed, according to InSpace (the French Institute for Space Applications): “at sea, in the mountains, in the countryside or in town, space technology solutions are directly useful to the tourist industry and enhance the appeal of areas”.

Do you want to find out more about technological trends in the space sector and their specific applications for tourism? You came to the right place! Retail customers: This review, based on research by the French National Centre National for Space Studies (CNES), helps you to better understand this complex industry and give you the keys concepts of Space Tech. Start-ups: this review will help you to better grasp the different uses of space tech innovations and how the latter could help to enrich your project.

The award for best lead actor goes to… CNES for its assistance with the emergence of space applications in France and Europe and the creation of “Connect by Cnes”—an assistance programme that aims to make space technologies accessible for start-ups.

T – 0… Lighting the thrusters and lift-off

Space innovations applied to tourism: observation

Today, space data and infrastructures are increasingly accessible and leave the way clear for structures that want to innovate in the tourism sector.

This access to space has been facilitated, on the one hand, by new space systems that are overall more flexible and offer better performances, and on the other by cost free access and the open use of data and satellite solutions. These reasons, combined with a good legislative framework in France have literally boosted the space ecosystem and access to its data. At a legislative level, space and space infrastructures are regulated by clear national and international programmes. In Europe, the European Copernicus programme—for observation and monitoring—has notably allowed for the favourable deployment of innovative operational service.

The first major use of space tech is therefore the use of images and data from satellites (high and very high resolution). In the tourism sector, transport is the biggest user of space applications as a lever for economic and corporate development. However, uses can also apply to “territorial” issues. As a demonstration of how satellites can offer solutions:

Satellites used in transportation to monitor areas that are hard to access and make secure

Did you know? The reason why WiFi is becoming more freely available in planes is because of satellites that make the connection possible!

In this case, all transport systems can be taken into account: maritime transport, railways and air travel. According to the CNES: “with positioning systems, high resolution Earth observation systems and data available on traffic, the maritime authorities have access to a set of high-performance tools”... Tools that can ensure the accessibility and safety of the oceans. The same applies to rail and air transport, where space based solutions contribute to monitoring networks and helping to ensure the safety of traffic. Modern satellites have imaging systems that can detect the slightest movements on land. There are ever greater needs for mobility and the infrastructures in place are not always adequate to ensure smooth and fast daily traffic. Space may, once again, make most journeys easier and ensure the complementarity of transport options.

Satellites used in territorial management for monitoring and promotion

For winter tourism, it is now possible to produce images of snowfalls based on the same optical images from satellites. The project was led by the satellite Sentinel 2 that measures the depth of snow at different ski resorts on Earth to an accuracy of ten centimetres. Using the same principle, seaside resorts can assess the quality of continental water using satellite images. Equally as important, this quality of resolution makes it possible to monitor the coastline and therefore inform the owners of land on the seafront about risks of erosion. Tourist residences, hotels, camp-sites and private individuals have good reason to use these space technologies and optical satellite images. The observation of the Earth therefore allows for close monitoring of the land. In this case, this means promoting tourist sites from space and archiving what the InSpace institute calls “memory tourism” to be able to observe changes to the landscape. Space Tech can be applied on all the sports and leisure sites across the country.

The award for best supporting actor goes to… InSpace for the assistance it offers to local authorities, local public sector players in terms of spatial solutions and organising a national space and tourism encounter that will take place on 28 May in La Rochelle.

T + 2… Jettisoning the thrusters and acceleration

Space innovations applied to tourism: geopositioning

In the near future, the use of satellite (geopositioning) may go as far as automatic docking systems”.

The European geopositioning system Galileo has also favoured the development of space tech on Earth.

The second major use of space tech will therefore be the use of satellite data and geopositioning. Tourist companies can already access high-performance applications and new hardware that offer great accuracy in terms of geopositioning. Space technology can be applied to tourist routes around the world and for tracking. This is another way in which help can be offered to the transport sector and local issues.

Did you know? Geopositioning is above all useful for smart transport such as self-driving vehicles, which are considered to be the future of road transport.

Satellites in transportation for cartography and navigation

Maritime transport, with the issues of safety and accurately steering large vessels makes frequent use of spatial geopositioning. The same principle applies to managing fleets and helping pleasure sailors to navigate when they enter a port. According to the CNES: “in the near future, the use of satellites may go as far as automatic docking systems”. Technology for railways is not sufficiently advanced; sensors on rails are still used to control trains and manage traffic. This space-based geopositioning system could, ultimately, replace the traditional technology and compensate for anomalies on the tracks. However, using satellites for positioning is already standard practice for air transport. The aim is therefore to enhance its use for guiding planes, and more specifically, to assist with landing.

CNES also reminds us that: “space technologies play a central role in organising a multi-modal information system” by associating geopositioning with network mapping.

Satellites used in territorial management for urban development and mobility

Local authorities are faced with real challenges, in particular for developing their areas. Maps drawn up using data from space are therefore highly practical: the idea is to have an overall vision with very specific land parameters to foresee and plan for any territorial anomalies. Space-based solutions can therefore solve problems at a regional, communal, metropolitan or even international level, and also reduce the harm caused by excessive tourism, i.e. problems with traffic flows. Geopositioning could be particularly useful for optimising the organisation of global events, such as the 2024 Olympic Games. These large scale events pose real problems in terms of managing the flows of visitors; hence the need to use space technology with an accuracy to the nearest centimetre. This application needs to be applied to all busy tourist sites.

The award for best leading role goes to… Satellite RemoveDebris, an intrapreneurial project from Airbus, for its intention to clean-up space and reduce space pollution. This satellite is equipped with innovative technology to treat all the waste in space—that is estimated at 8,000 tonnes.

The final word

Space is relevant to tourism. The creation of NewSpace offers further proof that the innovations in the space sector represent the future of tourism. This structure was created in the USA by entrepreneurs who want to transform space activities. What are its aims? Involving the private sector in exploring the solar system and Earth as a means to offer new services.

According to research by CNES, the tourist sector can make use of observation and geopositioning at different stages of tourist travel: “during preparation by highlighting the appeal of an area, during the trip by presenting the route and offering information in real time, and afterwards by keeping a connection with the areas and their activities”. Space solutions help to make improvements to many tourist services. Providing information on the route and activities on offer in real time, moving in 3D, zooming in on a monument, creating a route using different means of transport by connecting your flight with a train and then another mode of transport... All of this is now possible thanks to the technological infrastructures in space.

As for space tourism, the Japanese Rocket Society estimates the number of annual passengers will be 10 million by 2030, 2040. Which gives some motivation for innovating in space and creating infrastructures ready to receive these tourists. This is already the ambition of Orion Span that plans to build a luxury hotel in space by 2022! For €7.7 million you can spend twelve days with an unrivalled view of the Earth… To be continued.

To find out more about space tourism and the challenges of this sector, Welcome City Lab invites you to get a copy of its Trend Book #2 and its special “Techno a go-go” file that you download here.

We hope you enjoy your read!

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