The science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce is at the core of the space industry—from the mathematicians and astronomers who analyze space to the engineers who design and build the launch vehicles that get us there. This workforce is enabled . . .
Considering the number of doctoral degrees earned in science and engineering, the European Union has the greatest proportion, followed by China and the United States. As with first university degrees, China has been rapidly increasing the number of doctoral science and engineering degrees granted since the early 2000s.
Note: This exhibit is from The Space Report 2013. Please refer to this year’s exhibits for the most current data as numbers may have been revised since this edition was published.
While space has many practical applications that are already making real differences in people’s daily lives, many more research activities are still in the early stages of development. Depending on their maturity and complexity, the practical uses of these research avenues are not always well understood or guaranteed.
Products and services derived from or enabled by space assets, technologies, or activities provide tangible benefits to people on Earth and continue to improve the quality of life in countries around the world, often in ways that are not readily apparent.
Astronomers are laying the groundwork for a new generation of extraordinarily large observatories. The Square Kilometer Array (SKA) Telescope will be the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope ever built. The SKA takes its name from the combined size of the collecting area of the thousands of individual dishes that comprise it, making it far more sensitive than any existing radio telescope.
Ground-based telescopes also play a key role in studying the Sun, monitoring it for sunspots, flares, and other activity. China is planning to develop the world’s largest solar telescope, called the Chinese Giant Solar Telescope (CGST). While current solar telescopes are typically no more than 1 meter (3.3 feet) in diameter, the CGST will be up to 8 meters (26.2 feet) in diameter.
Long-duration space missions beyond Earth’s orbit are not always able to rely on solar panels, so they often require a more compact and powerful source of energy. Radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) were developed to provide this power source. RTGs generate electric power from the heat produced by the natural decay of small amounts of radioactive material, typically plutonium-238 isotopes.
Much of the world depends on GEO satellites for defense, communication, science, and weather monitoring. These expensive assets eventually fail or run out of propellant, but refueling and maintaining them can extend their lives, giving their users more value. Servicing can also help make space more sustainable because broken and drifting satellites take up valuable real estate in GEO and pose a risk to neighboring systems.
Studies of the Sun and how solar activity affects the Earth is a major topic for both ground-based observatories and spacecraft in orbit. In August, NASA launched the two Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) spacecraft to explore the Earth’s radiation belts, a very hazardous region of near-Earth space that can pose dangers to communications, GPS satellites, and human spaceflight.