Horowitz: Disruptive Change is Accelerating, How Do We Harness and Embrace It?

*Note: The following comments are excerpted from U.S. Space Co-Founder Ed Horowitz’s appearance in front of the Washington Space Business Roundtable, October 16 in Washington, D.C.

I can’t help but note the recent call to action by SMC Commander General Pawlikowski for redefining the way satellite systems are specified, launched and possibly paid for as comforting.

We have spoken before about the ever increasing pace of change – where the developments of the next 25 years will equal the last 350 years. We have spoken about my favorite economist Joseph Schumpeter and his principle of creative destruction which describes the way in which capitalist economic development arises out of the destruction of some prior economic order.

The satellite industry’s dream has to be an inexhaustible effort to make the future, not just to predict it and as Marcel Proust wrote, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

However you look at it, the satellite business gathers information in its various forms on Earth, transmits it to the sky, and re-distributes it back to specific Earth destinations in a secure manner.

The value is almost always provided and located first on Earth. In other words, most of the value activities are still earth bound and essentially passive, like a network server or train switching station.

It is a three way system – first Earth, second space and third back to Earth. Consider one disruptive and exciting possibility to dramatically alter the equation by actively originating value in space first, and then transferring it to Earth. Such a disruptive change would be considered a two way system – first space and second Earth.

Call this two way concept “harvesting” and, like anything else, there can be many degrees of harvesting. We are already in space. We know how to re-distribute from there better than anyone. What we have to learn is how to derive space based content origination – also maybe how to build in space.

Another level of harvesting would be to take advantage of assets already in space. Figure out ways to give them additional life, or deliver on orbit upgrades to processors and power systems. With proper engineering one does not have to bring the entire building to space. Just new furniture. On orbit servicing is a new possibility with multiple approaches in the offing. DARPA is looking at it.

The government is the largest single customer opportunity we have. We have begun to get on their strategic planning page. Witness General Pawlikowski’s white paper. They have special needs. We have the commercial capability to meet them. They have to develop a commercial roadmap to be able to purchase them.

Today, the satellite business is producing reliable earnings for shareholders. But undeniably, there are changes on the horizon dictated, if nothing else, by the changing worlds of our customers. And they expect us to “get it”.