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The Exploration Company Aims to Bring More Competition to the Space Capsule Market

By Mark Holmes | July 1, 2024

A rendering of The Exploration Company’s Nyx capsule. Photo: TEC

The world of commercial space exploration is in its early stages and likely to see significant progress over the next decade. One European venture, The Exploration Company (TEC), aims to be a leader here. The company designs spacecraft and produces space capsules.

Its first small capsule, Bikini, will soon launch on the inaugural Ariane 6 mission. The company plans to launch a second capsule in 2025, and its fully developed product in 2027 for station vehicle missions.

CEO Hélène Huby recently spoke to Via Satellite about her ambitions for the company. Huby says the company is focusing on two primary types of clients: government space agencies, such as the European Space Agency (ESA), and commercial entities, such as commercial space stations. The company has secured contracts with commercial space station companies Axiom Space and Vast, and is participating in ESA’s Commercial Cargo program.

TEC’s objective is to build an accessible, sustainable, and cooperative space world. Huby talks of encouraging cooperation in space by working with many countries as it can. She believes it is crucial that that space remains an area of peace, cooperation, and inspiration.

Huby sees a large opportunity to launch a new space capsule into the market.

“Currently, there are only three capsules operational worldwide. While there are plans for more future capsules, the capsule manufacturing process remains most challenging and rare,” she says. “As with all companies, the market opportunity also comes with execution risk. However, focusing solely on the capsule business could propel us over 1 billion euros in revenues relatively quickly. Our strategy includes diversification into other product lines, which has the potential to drive our revenue into the range of several billions. Transportation services would be a key enabler for this – which is our primary objective.”

Once that is established, Huby believes the company will be able to pivot towards infrastructure and service sectors, and potentially move revenues into multi-billions. Huby believes prioritizing transportation will ensure a solid foundation for profitable infrastructure development. The next few years will see the company ramp up flight activities and Huby hopes TEC can have around five flights per year by 2032

The company has received a lot of attention in Europe raising around $70 million in the last two years. But clearly, building a $1 billion dollar space company is a challenge. Huby sees the risk of conflict in space as one of the biggest issues.

“A primary challenge is the risk of conflict in space,” she says. “Wars and conflicts are detrimental to the economy and pose significant risks to space exploration. It is essential stakeholders prioritize peaceful co-operation to ensure the continued progress and success of space exploration initiatives.”

She also points out what she sees as the “winner-takes-all” nature of the space industry. She adds: “SpaceX dominates the global space sector, surpassing other players by an order of magnitude. SpaceX has been a huge enabler and absolutely professional in advancing space exploration, but any sustained monopoly by any company in any sector naturally poses challenges for competition in the long run.”

A recent World Economic Forum/McKinsey report forecast global space economy could be worth around $2 trillion by 2035. It seems like a staggering number, but Huby is very optimistic the industry can reach it.

“Currently, the telecom market is valued at over $1.5 trillion. With an annual growth rate of about 6%, it is projected to reach around $3 trillion by 2035. If the space industry can capture just 33% of this market, it could potentially reach a value of $1 trillion,” she says. “Currently, the space industry is worth around $500 billion. Based on a conservative assumption that the user base doubles due to increased missions and demand and considering the potential growth in communication broadband services, which alone could account for a  trillion-dollar market, plus traditional transport and exploration sectors, the space industry could indeed reach $2 trillion by 2035.”