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Articles from The Business Forum Journal

Contributed by Ed Ward

SPACE - The Final Frontier or the Gateway to New Frontiers? 

Space Exploration is frequently referred to as the “Final Frontier”.  However, some recognized scientists and space researchers see the exploration of space, within our galaxy, as only the beginning of space exploration.  A few current experts view exploration within our galaxy as the “gateway” to new frontiers.

As with breaking most distance barriers or when exploring new frontiers, current transportation and communication methods were usually the primary limiting factors that defined success.  As the horse was used to transport the previously foot-bound man, the horse was also used to carry communications between frontier outposts.  Sailing ships gave way to steamships and then to diesel engines.  Trains followed the same model.  Transportation and communications moved at the same pace. 

As earth bound transportation methods advanced, the new technology and its application increased the volume and the speed of communication.  As man improved his own transportation, he quickly applied the new methods to the transportation of goods and services and communications.  What once took years or months to transport or to communicate over a given distance soon became reduced to weeks or days.  Increased commerce and communications followed accordingly.

However, most frequently significant technological change often results in quantum leaps forward.  The invention of the telegraph and the telephone caused a rapid acceleration in both communication speed and volume.  Communications were no longer limited or tied to the traditional methods of written correspondence and physical transportation methods.  Seaways gave way to airways and land routes gave way to landlines.  Communication suddenly outpaced transportation.

Any cursory review of the advances in sea, land and air transportation over the past century would conclude it has been remarkable, but restricted by limited technological advances.  Unfortunately, the development of space transportation has also been largely limited to a lack of technological advancements. An objective examination of rocket engine development would disclose that, albeit much has been accomplished, it has been generally restricted to the refinement of existing technology and lacking in real advancement.  Today’s propulsion systems remain much the same as created fifty years ago.  Some have advanced in size or in scale and others by refining their application.  However, future space exploration requires major advancement in propulsion technology.

Yet, a similar review of the progress made in communications over the past fifty years would find it has not only been remarkable, but it seems to be unlimited, as technology advancements accelerate.  Thus, communications technology applications have expanded accordingly.

When Dr. Arthur C. Clark defined the “Clark Orbit”, few experts realized the significance of its potential or the magnitude of its application in the future, out of which the satellite communication industry developed.  The Clark Orbit or the “geostationary orbit”, where a satellite appears to be stationary, as it rotates with the earth, has become prized space real estate.  Today, approximately 150 orbital positions are occupied by over 210 satellites in the “geosynchronous orbit”, at 22,000 miles altitude above the equator.

In addition, military, science and commercial interests have developed the use of satellite orbits other than the GEO or geosynchronous orbit.  Satellites now rotate above the earth at various altitudes in orbits called “LEO” (from 100 to 5,000 miles altitude), for Low Earth Orbit, MEO” (from 5,000 to 10,000 miles altitude), for Medium Earth Orbit, as well as in Elliptical and Sun synchronous orbits.  Each of these orbits has different satellite uses and various communications technology applications.  

As demand for more and faster communications develops, satellites are expanding in size, in quantity and in their applications to satisfy commercial demands.  In the past decade the average size of a communication satellite has doubled, from 3,000lbs to around 6,000lbs.  In the same decade the quantity of satellites delivered to space has more than double, when all orbits are considered.  At the same time, satellite technology has advance dramatically, with more communications processing capability incorporated into ever increasing sizes.  Satellites have increased in transponder count, in antenna size and in power storage and power consumption capability, all to meet ever increasing commercial demands.

In support of the increasing demands of the commercial satellite industry, the commercial launch services industry has been required to respond with ever increasing launch vehicle capability.  However, without significant technological improvements in propulsion systems, the alternative was to develop even larger launch vehicles.  This obvious solution to the demand for greater lift performance was met by adding more of the same propulsion to some of the existing launch vehicles.  Some grew with strap-on solid rockets and others by building new and even larger launchers using existing propulsion technology. 

Thus, one may conclude that “space exploration” has been bounded by the limitations of existing propulsion technology and systems.  The exploration of our galaxy is restricted largely by these constraining technologies.  The man’s exploration of space beyond our galaxy, a dream of many, is essentially prohibited by the lack of advanced propulsion systems.  Obviously, there are major political, economic and commercial limitations that restrict space exploration as well.  

As a result, today’s space exploration is more one of “space development” or “economic exploration”. 

About the Author

Ed Ward started his business career with General Dynamics Corporation in 1967.  He has over 30 years of experience in Aerospace, Telecommunications, Electronics and the Commercial Space business.  He has twenty-five years of experience in doing business in Europe, Asia and the Pacific Rim countries.

Ed joined the Space Systems Division of General Dynamics in 1987.  He conducted all International Business Development activities and International Marketing for a new subsidiary dedicated to providing Commercial Launch Services globally.  He served as the Director of International Marketing, with world-wide responsibilities, for eight years.  In 1994, Martin Marietta Corporation purchased the Space Systems Division and the Commercial Launch Services business of General Dynamics Corporation.

In 1995, Ed Ward was promoted to Vice President and is now responsible for Asia-Pacific Marketing and for Commercial Business Development, as part of the merged Lockheed Martin Company, International Launch Services.  He has done business in over 25 countries, with multiple customers and suppliers in many of those countries.  During his 27 years at General Dynamics, Ed served in several new business development and project management assignments.  He was the Corporate Director of International Business Development for the Far East, Director of Planning and Market Assessment at the Electronics Division and an International Program Director for F-16 Test Equipment.

In his early career he was a Director of Procurement and Materials Management at two different General Dynamics commercial enterprises.  Ed was also President of American Hi-Lift Corporation, a California commercial lift equipment company. 

Ed. Ward was raised in Michigan and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Pre-Law from Eastern Michigan University.  Upon graduation he received a Regular US Army Commission.  He has a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He also attended Law School at the University of San Diego and the Stanford Executive Summer Program for High Tech.  Managers.

As a US Army Infantry Officer, he served in the Pacific and in Southeast Asia.  His citations include the Commendation Medal, the Expeditionary Medal and the Air Medal.  He is a member of Beta Gamma Sigma, the MBA honorary society.  He has been affiliated with the NMA and AIAA, San Diego State University, University of San Diego and the International School of Management in San Diego.   

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