Research in Engineering and Aviation

Perspectives in Critical Research Areas in Space Systems


Author(s): Swartwout, M.A.

Journal: Journal of Aviation and Aerospace Perspectives, 1(1), 2011.


Compared to aviation, the space industry is quite small, with 2009 U.S. sales in space totaling just 25% of the more than $140 billion in aviation sales (Barr, 2010).  Still,  space systems have critical roles in areas such as telecommunications and national security; nations still consider it a point of pride to launch their first spacecraft and their first astronaut.  While there are many interesting challenges in the future of space systems, an underlying factor in nearly every challenge is cost:  the high cost of launch leads to a scarce supply of launchers, which in turn creates a significant barrier against space access.  In the years 2000-2009, an average of only 64 successful launches occurred worldwide (   The small number of launches puts pressure on reliability (since the cost of failure is so high) which further increases cost.