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Business Plan for a commercial space telescope

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Public Telescope (Business Plan for a commercial space telescope)

Reporting period: 2015-07-01 to 2015-10-31

"The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is a masterpiece for astronomy and astrophysics and also for public outreach and education serving as an inspiration for all mankind. However, the HST is coming to age and will have to be retired soon. The James Webb Space Telescope cannot be considered a follow-on telescope to the HST as its observing spectrum will be in the infrared spectrum only, while the HST can observe in the ultraviolet (UV) and the visual spectrum too. Consequently, the UV-community will be left behind or even blind. Acknowledging that professional UV-astronomers are mostly interested in observing celestial objects of the local universe and that the hobby astronomer community as well as the general public's interest in astronomy is centered on bright objects as well offers an interesting opportunity to establish a follow-on telescope to the HST, which can be extremely cost-effective. This is due to two reasons: a) a telescope focusing on bright objects is not required to work with a huge aperture and b) recent advances in electronics, sensors, light-weight structures etc. have enabled the rise of small satellite systems. By combining these aspects an interesting concept arises, which is the aim of the project ""Public Telescope"":
• A sub-meter space telescope for ultraviolet, visual and near-infrared spectroscopy and imaging
• An Internet-based service-platform for order and configuration
• A combination of huge scientific need with a sustainable commercial potential

The scope of the feasibility study is the concretization of the addressable market volume and the customer groups, the required infrastructure to serve the market and the elaboration of a roadmap for implementation of the business concept. The following work packages build the base of the study:

1 Concretion of user requirements
The exploration of user requirements is needed to develop a cost estimation for the space telescope and the related infrastructure as well as for estimation of observation capacity demand.

2 Development of a rough mission concept
The mission concept is required in order to estimate the cost of the space mission project. This includes satellite bus, optics, instruments, communication, orbit, ground station, data distribution

3 Estimate of overall project cost
The cost estimate is developed from the mission concept. It is needed as one input for the profitability calculation for the founders and potential private investors.

4 Development of product, price and quantity structures
This describes the revenue side of the business concept. It works as another input for the profitability calculation.

5 Development of the business plan
The business plan merges the outcome of all work packages. Furthermore, it adds information about the market, the competition and the business model that already exist.
Performed work
- Discussions with institutional users (11 scientific institutes)
- Development of institutional usage concept (imaging, spectroscopy, archive)
- Development of consumer oriented products
- Development of a web platform prototype
- Discussions with public and private investors from D, EU and USA
- Development of a payload concept for optics, instruments, sensors
- Development of a satellite mission concepts (large satellite and small satellite)
- Business plan calculations
- Development of investor pitches and teasers

Study results
- Comments to scientific usage from 11 scientific institutes
- Online survey and email address list with 700 participants
- 2 consumer oriented space-based product descriptions with high revenue potential
- 2 business implementation concepts (straight approach, incremental approach)
- Satellite infrastructure implementation concepts for straight and incremental approach, one concept is planned to be implemented within 18 months
- Business plan calculations for both implementation concepts
- Positive investor feedback to the business plans
- Web platform prototype with terrestrial telescope network integration in Beta test phase
- 2 aerospace industry partnerships
- 2 scientific institute partnerships


1) The business model was modified with a shift to consumer oriented space based products in a first step. Professional products are planned to be implemented in a second step. The aim is to shorten the time to generate revenue and to lower the risks for investors.

2) astrofactum will continue with a proposal to phase 2 of the H2020 SME program. The proposal will focus a satellite infrastructure for a consumer oriented product with go to market within 18 months.

3) astrofactum will continue to develop and market the web platform providing terrestrial telescope capacities and astronomer community features. astrofactum will address a German grant program for financial support of the web platform implementation.
Space-based astronomy has been always a public task, driven by scientific demands and intensive about the instruments that provide the highest scientific benefit. Private users have normally no access to the instruments for the obvious reason of observation constraints. Public Telescope opens both scientists and private customers the possibility to get astronomy data on demand. Public Telescope will lay the basis for an international astronomy network managed by Europe.

The Public Telescope project is embedded in a renewed interest of people for space. Over the past decades only national or international government-funded space missions have been realized, however, now space flights do meet a growing interest for commercial projects. US based initiatives show the commercial potential of such projects. Public Telescope aims to set standards in Europe for commercial space activities for private and institutional customers.

Access to satellite-based services have a stimulating effect on education and career choices and increase the enthusiasm for science and space through personal experience. The use of space-based infrastructures for education is in interest for training young talents.
Public Telescope Project Mission
Public Telescope Artistic Impression