Aravind Ravichandran, Founder, TerraWatch Space
Please could you introduce you tell us more about your role as Founder at TerraWatch Space.
With a multidisciplinary background and over 10 years of cross-functional experience, I am an independent market analyst and advisor in the space industry. I am the founder of TerraWatch Space, an independent advisory and strategic communications firm in the space industry, specialising in the Earth observation (EO) sector. I created TerraWatch Space to demystify EO from space for businesses, individuals and organizations that live outside the "space bubble" enabling them to exploit the complete potential of EO through a use-case driven approach. In addition, I host the TerraWatch Space podcast and write the TerraWatch Space newsletter, both of which aim to decode the developments in the EO sector.
You’ll be moderating a session on the development of satellites as a service. Why is this such a significant topic in the space community at the moment?
I think that the emergence of satellites-as-a-service models is a crucial development in the democratization and growth of the space industry. This approach allows any organization that wants to leverage the medium of space for solving their business and societal challenges to do so in a rapid and cost effective manner. For example, any company that wants to launch a sensor to solve a specific problem can essentially develop the sensor and "outsource space" to the space companies and just receive the downlink data. In some cases, even the sensor development can be outsourced thus essentially reducing the cost and barrier to access space.
Are there any particular industries (current or future) that you think have the potential to be transformed by satellite data?
Almost every industry on the planet will be transformed by satellite data, but I expect the disruption transformation to be the highest in the financial services, insurance and infrastructure monitoring industries. Most of this disruption will be as a result of climate change - with companies interested in developing tools to both prepare and adapt to climate change. In the case of financial services, satellite data will be key in climate risk and disclosure tools, while insurance companies have already started to leverage satellite data for building new products. Infrastructure monitoring through satellites will be inevitable due to the increasing frequency of extreme weather-related disasters, with satellites providing critical tools to both prepare for and respond to such events.
How do you think the ‘satellites-as-a-service’ model will develop over the coming years?
I expect the satellites-as-a-service model to become mainstream in the space industry, both for operational missions and some demonstration missions. Although some sensors with specific mission requirements require customized platforms (and hence, not being a good fit for the model), I expect many companies to leverage this model for demonstrating their technology and proving the concept, simply because of the efficiency and flexibility it provides for the end-users. If the evolution of the model includes the growth of digital software platforms for easy mission design and modeling, then that would make this model even more attractive for the users. All of this is however, dependent on the successful growth of the satellite data sector and its continuous adoption in non-space sectors.
If you were sent to spend a year alone onboard a spacecraft, what one item would you take for entertainment?
I will probably take my ukulele and/or my harmonica - so that I can hopefully try and learn to play them in space, while enjoying the views of the planet :)