Low-Cost is the most disruptive innovation, contrary to the most accepted perspective which asserts that technology, in and of itself, is the only way to innovate. What technological advancement fundamentally changed our world alone and of itself? The integrated circuit (IC) was invented decades before it was harnessed in the PC. Our world did not change when the IC was invented, but instead changed decades later when an ultra-low cost PC hit the market (utilizing ICs once they were affordable). Cars changed everything about transportation, city structures, and how we live our lives, but the model-T didn’t harness some new technology. It used existing technologies, but made them affordable to everyone by changing the manufacturing process. The same can be seen with the iPhone. Everything the iPhone did, was in existence…it simply combined them. There is hardly a decision you make in your life, which does not relate in some fashion to cost. Why is tremendous cost reduction never given credit as being “innovative”?
What else do these examples all possess? Universal applicability…
If the iPhone came hard coded with Candy Crush and Facebook how big would the market be for it, would you have one? The beauty of the Model-T, the PC, and the iPhone is that at the heart of it, they are fundamentally universal platforms, which you can tailor to meet your specific needs. The universal nature, coupled with affordable price points, of each is what made them so transformative to our lives.
Some have made some progress reducing launch costs, but the satellite itself still has not made strides forward. It appears some will attempt this, but more than likely they will do it by building satellites built for a single purpose. The cost savings will come from mass production, but not likely from fundamentally rethinking the satellite. Right now we have the cubesat. While inexpensive, it cannot overcome basic laws of physics in the end. While the electronics become more and more capable (and smaller and smaller), the fact of the matter remains that to get a certain quality picture you need a certain size aperture and focal length, both of which do not fit in a cube. Same goes for communication antennas. This will not change. On the other end of the spectrum you have the Governments super sats, built for optimized performance at all costs and schedule. Right now in space we have the calculator, and the mega server, we need the PC. Universally applicable, industrial grade, capable satellites available at costs orders of magnitude below the mega servers.
York Space Systems is working on just this with our proprietary S-CLASS platform. We initially spoke of the potential of lower-cost…that simply. What does it mean, in the bigger scheme, to actually reduce cost by an order of magnitude? Not hypothetically, not because of buying power, and not because of mass quantities alone. What does it mean when a platform’s design, fundamentally, reduces the cost by an order of magnitude…like the Model-T, like the PC, like the iPhone? Many have made this claim, but what happens, in space, when this is actually possible. What if everything you knew about space moved the decimal over.
What would change? Everything…
Steve Jurvetson was recently quoted in a NewsWeek article which we think really captured the type of innovation we will see in the future when this platform is available.
“And then there’s all the stuff we haven’t thought of yet,” Jurvetson says. It’s hard to see what a new platform will engender. In 1995, Amazon.com sold books, Yahoo was an Internet directory, and a few newspapers started putting stories online. Nobody had heard of blogs, social networks, streaming music or software as a service. Similarly, as it gets easier and cheaper to build a space business, a new generation of entrepreneurs will create technology and applications that would barely make sense to us today.
Kevin Maney, Newsweek, Feb. 2nd, 2015, Space The Final Startup
When you design with a different long term vision, you wind up with a very different conceptual design. Not the same design only smaller, but rather a completely different design. The legacy space industry has persisted in trying to prune a sequoia into a bonsai, that simply cannot ever work. To craft a bonsai, you must start from the very beginning; start from its earliest roots. Our S-Class platform represents the next Revolution in spacecraft design.