More than most other industries, the aerospace land- scape has been rapidly changing over the past two decades. What was once a government dominated
environment for development of new products and systems
has been mostly overwhelmed by a plethora of industrial
developers and suppliers.
A one-time philosophy of take-it or leave-it policy of space
launch systems developed by the government now consists of
highly competitive industrial launch systems that are reusable,
lower in cost and have expanded capabilities. Even ten years
ago, launching a car into space would have been inconceivable. But today it’s fact. Ten years ago, recovering the first
stage of a launch vehicle by having it land on a barge in the
middle of the ocean would have been considered impossible.
And today it’s fact with several suppliers—not just SpaceX—
considering it to save costs.
Surprisingly, the technologies to develop these capabilities
have not been all that intimidating. Most of the new systems
being developed have been accomplished with the utilization of off-the-shelf technologies (OTS) and the courage and
knowledge of a few entrepreneurs.
At one point, researchers considered China and Russia to be
the main competitors in the race for space. That scenario has
changed with fast-reacting industrial suppliers lining up to
compete for the lucrative space market that is developing far
faster than anyone would have believed.
The development of electronically-driven autonomous sys-
Aerospace & Defense
tems for space systems, military hardware and combat systems
has been traveling along on its own path at breakneck speed as
well. A mostly separate set of industrial equipment suppliers
and developers (mostly U.S.) has been creating these systems,
using mostly OTS equipment, components and systems.
Russia recently announced that it was planning on establish-
ing a manned lunar colony by 2040, with first construction
by 2025. Their technological capabilities are reliable, high-
performing and supported in part by a long-time established
launch infrastructure. However, the Russians don’t have the
responsiveness, real-time technological capabilities, creativity
and aggressiveness that the U.S.’s aerospace en-
trepreneurs have created over the past ten years.
Even established U.S. aerospace firms are
getting into the act. Boeing is now developing
a reusable business jet-sized launch vehicle that
will have the first stage glide back for a runway landing like the space shuttle. First flight
is scheduled for two years from now. DARPA
first funded this system, termed the “Phantom
Express,” in 2017. Boeing’s long-term goal is to
have daily Phantom Express flights.
The battle for the mega-launch vehicles is also
proceeding with multiple participants including
NASA (Space Launch System or SLS), China
(Long March 9) and SpaceX (Big Falcon Rocket
or BFR, designed for Mars landing). First
launches of most of these systems are scheduled
for within the next 20 months.
The establishment of a U.S. Space Force as
early as 2020 also bodes well for increased
aerospace R&D with the development of new
satellites and technologies to help the military
win conflicts in space. This new branch of the
military is the first formed since the Air Force
was formed in 1947.
Industrial R&D Spenders –
Aerospace/Defense (Billions USD)
2017 2018 2019
Boeing 3.179 3.180 3.180
BAESystems 1.713 1.632 1.550
Lockheed Martin 1.200 1.339 1.485
Raytheon 0.734 0.830 0.891
NorthropGrumman 0.639 0.673 0.700
Total 7.465 7.654 7.806
Source: R&D Magazine Survey 2018
2017 Global 2017 U.S. 2018 Global 2018 U.S. 2019 Global 2019 U.S.
15.1 15. 9 15. 3
29. 8 30. 5
Aerospace/Defense R&D Spending