Space logistics, Kurs Orbital in the field to make Italy grow. Usov: “Key country”

Italy can aspire to a leadership position in the space logistics sector provided that the institutions decide to invest even more massively in the space sector. Let’s talk about the growth prospects and the key role our country can play Volodymyr Usov, founder of the Turin startup Kurs Orbital and former head of the Ukrainian Space Agency.

Usov, space logistics is a strategic sector for the development of the space industry. But why is it so important?

If we look at the history of logistics here on earth, we can easily understand how important global logistics, well structured, interconnected and above all with standards used by all, has been in the development of industries and in the production of increasingly advanced products. Space logistics currently has only one destination, the ISS, and is accessible only after winning government contracts. In a few years, however, the situation will change radically: NASA is co-financing the construction of 4 commercial space stations and the Moon is also being added among the possible destinations. They are largely destinations no longer subject to governments deciding who will supply what, but a new free market where companies can move as they do on land. Not to mention new mission possibilities that have never been necessary until now: just think of the possibility of moving material or personnel from one station to another. And precisely because this is a new market, it is very, very important to define standards that everyone can use right away.

For what reason?

If the destinations are interoperable, then the market can be developed rapidly and easily, because with a single set of technologies one can go anywhere and serve anyone. To all this must be added new services in orbit that until now had been precluded by the absence of technologies, of demand, or simply by excessively high costs. There are many companies springing up to offer in-orbit resupply, maintenance, inspection, assembly and manufacturing, life extension or decommissioning of satellites. Earth orbits are a veritable cauldron of opportunity. And as often happens, first come, first serve.

What are the growth prospects of the sector in Italy and in the world?

Italy has always had a leading position in the creation of spatial housing modules. A large part of the International Space Station, the Gateway and currently all the modules contracted by Axiom for its commercial space station have been built or are under construction in Turin by Thales Alenia Space. The same company that also produces part of the Cygnus cargo ships. In the same way, the Kurs system, father of our ARCap module, has now 37 years of use in space first on Mir and still on the ISS. It is responsible for more than 300 orbital dockings, 65% of all those that have occurred in the history of space exploration.

And so?

With the market that we are seeing being born before our eyes, Italy can boast a very good starting point in these sectors. Obviously the world is not at a standstill and will not leave us with a monopoly on these expertise, but we are talking about technologies that are very difficult to develop and which also require a lot of operational experience in space to guarantee safety. So it is essential that we exploit this advantage in our favor.

What are the obstacles – if any – that could slow down growth?

The major problems of the space economy, at least here in Europe, are the slow decision-making at institutional level, the fear of innovating too much, persevering in mistakes rather than admitting one was wrong, the small size of investors dedicated to the space sector if one compare to the US. If, on the other hand, we look at the economic uncertainties worldwide, the difficulty in finding raw materials, in short, the difficulties that can affect any other sector in the world. We are not disconnected from slowdowns in global growth. The commercialization of space is not in question, but the achievement of some objectives such as a thriving space logistics may be delayed if the whole world slows down. And on a competitive level, it is up to companies to be more ready than the others.

What role can Kurs Orbital play in a growth context?

Our background of experience in automated rendezvous and docking systems allows us to start with a product that doesn’t have to prove it’s not just a good idea. On the contrary, it allows us to be the first in the world to be the supplier of this important technology with a standard platform that can be easily installed on any type of spacecraft. We are enabling for all companies intending to operate in the business of support operations, maintenance, assembly and manufacturing in orbit (OSAM), logistics and space debris removal, but who do not want to spend huge economic resources and time in the development of this system. We have the opportunity to become an industry standard.

What are Kurs Orbital’s development plans for Italy?

First of all we are relocating part of our Ukrainian workforce to Italy, but obviously we have no intention of stopping there. We are partners with the Polytechnics of Turin and Pisa in a research program on Osam missions and, in addition to being able to offer our experience, it is a unique opportunity to find new talent. We have our headquarters in the I3P premises and a production center in Sicily. We will grow in parallel with the development of our market. For these reasons, first of all, we should thank the Foreign Center for the Internationalization of Piedmont which helped us set up our company here in Italy. We are also fresh winners of the Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta StartCup thanks to the support of I3P, and in a few days we will participate in the national competition organized by PniCube in L’Aquila, in which we are sure we can do just as well. These are signals which, combined with the incubation in Esa Bic Turin, make us understand that we are on the right path to achieving the goals we have in mind.

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Space logistics, Kurs Orbital in the field to make Italy grow. Usov: “Key country” – SpacEconomy 360