Space Commercialization in Spain

Space Commercialization in Spain

 The Spanish space industry is the fifth largest such industry in Europe. According to figures published in 2018, it is worth slightly more than 800 million euros (having doubled in just 10 years) and employs roughly 3,500 professionals. The Spanish market is the fifth largest in Europe.

In 2017, Spain assumed presidency of the ESA’s Council of Ministers and will occupy this post until 2019. This is an opportunity for the country to contribute not only to the ESA but also to the development of the Spanish space industry; in these two years, negotiations will take place concerning the EU’s 2021–2027 investments. The majority of the roughly 12 billion euros will go through the ESA.

Between 2017 and 2019, the ESA hopes to make progress in the development of the Vega-C and Ariane 6 rockets. They are slated for launch in 2019 and 2020, respectively. The ESA also hopes to launch the ExoMars 2020 mission (barring any delays) as well as define and develop new Sentinel satellites. Other key activities for the ESA will be to further collaborate with NASA as well as participate in defining and developing a new space station that will most likely orbit the Moon.

Early into the presidency, the Spanish Government decided to increase its financial contribution to the ESA to 1.5 billion euros during the 2017–2024 period. This figure exceeds Spain’s previous contribution by 600 million euros. These investments will allow the Spanish space industry to participate to a greater extent in the ESA’s optional programs and favorably position Spanish companies so that they have a better chance of participating in other programs, such as those managed by the EU (Copernicus or commercial projects). This is good news for Spain because, for more than 20 years, the country has seen returns that have exceeded its contributions to the ESA.


The Spanish space industry’s recent successes include the launch of the PAZ satellite, which makes Spain the third country in Europe with its own capabilities in space for observing and monitoring natural resources, territory, infrastructure, security, defense, borders and humanitarian crises on Earth. Our country should also be recognized because the CHEOPS space observatory was built in Spain.

Spain is one of the few countries capable of designing, building and operating fully functional satellites; this capacity is worth leveraging in seeking out new business opportunities. In fact, Spain is ranked seventh among countries that build satellites.


Spain also has experience in developing instruments for satellites and probessuch as TWINS (Temperature and Winds for InSight) on the NASA’s InSight probe. This suite of instruments was developed by the Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) of the National Institute of Aerospace Technology (INTA). Yet this is not the first time that the CAB has completed a project of this nature. In fact, TWINS is based on the design of the REMS weather station on the Curiosity rover. INTA forms part of more than 10 international, Mars exploration projects.

Another milestone for the Spanish space industry is that the EU decided to place the Galileo Security Monitoring Centre (GSMC) in Spain. Perhaps, this success is twofold because the European GNSS Service Centre (GSC) was already in Spain. It is very uncommon for two centers to be found in the same country. Spain also has a 20% stake in the EU Space Surveillance & Tracking (SST) program.

Another achievement is the fact that the ESA chose  PLD Space  to design a European launcher for micro-satellites (<300 kg); the Miura 5 rocket has a reusable first stage and represents the industry's push towards reducing launch costs. This is the fist time that the ESA has put out an RFP for a commercial launcher outside of its fleet. PLD Space is also involved in developing what will be the European spaceport for small satellites with sun-synchronous and polar orbits.

Other noteworthy Spanish companies involved in space commercialization activities include:

  -Deimos Imaging, currently a subsidiary of the Canadian UrtheCast Corp., is a Spanish company that specializes in Earth observation systems as well as remote-sensing products and services.

  -GMV is a multinational company that contains private, Spanish capital. It specializes in providing space agencies, European institutions and satellite operators and manufacturers with support services, systems and products.

  -Hisdesat is a government satellite services operator that works primarily in the areas of defense, security, intelligence and foreign affairs.

  - Hispasat, satellite telecommunications operator.

  - Indra, has a division that specializes in the use of space technology in military operations.

  - Sener provides engineering services, produces equipment and integrates systems.

  -Zero 2 Infinity is developing a rocket that is launched from a balloon.


However, Spain’s role in Space 2.0 is not just driven by large companies. A group of young programmers recently won one of the competitions at the 2018 NASA Space Apps Challenge hackathon.


Yet there will be some obstacles. People in the industry are skeptical and new companies are lacking investment. The startup-financing model is only working in the US.

As a result of the current state of affairs, people have begun to discuss the need for a Spanish space agency. On the one hand, it would centralize decision-making concerning space, which would optimize and simplify processes. On the other hand, some say that the current level of investment makes the agency redundant. The Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI) has been working in this capacity since 1986.

No matter the outcome, it is evident that we must be able to adapt to these changing times. We need to seek out new countries and clients as partners. We need new business models that allow the space industry to collaborate with other industries that, historically, were quite distant. We also need to keep our foot on the gas because there is room for improvement; even though Spain has been doing well in recent years, its share in the world market is less than its economic output. 

Challenges of space comercialization
  • Space industry

    Space industry

    How is the current space industry.

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  • New opportunities

    New opportunities

    Opportunities and risks of the commercialization of space.

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  • Space Commercialization in Spain

    Space in Spain

    How is the commercialization of space in Spain.

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  • Challenges in Space Commercialization


    Conclusions and challenges of the commercialization of space.

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