Regardless of industry, stakeholder engagement has always been about finding common ground and coming up with solutions that everyone can live with. As the state-controlled monopoly on space gives way to private commercialization, how will stakeholder engagement play out in this budding NewSpace business ecosystem? See the emerging stakeholder issues that will need to be addressed.
Why is stakeholder engagement important for the NewSpace sector?
“For-profit” businesses have long engaged with stakeholders to ensure compliance and secure social license to operate. Civil and government agencies have different goals: to better serve the public, and to make more efficient use of limited public resources.
Large NewSpace players like SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, as well as veteran organizations like NASA, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are approaching stakeholder engagement very seriously, says Michael Daily, CEO of Communication Metrics, Inc., an Organizational Communications Advisor who helps organizations reach higher awareness and more engagement through improved stakeholder relationships. There is a lot at stake, and it’s going to take a lot of social acceptance to get there. Those NewSpace organizations who help make space safe, affordable, and convenient for their stakeholders will make a fortune.
Civil, commercial and government organizations already recognize the need to forge mutually beneficial connections between the three primary nodes of the space business: Government, Academia and Industry. All of these nodes have a “stake” in space exploration, expansion, exploitation and (potentially) exclusion.
Through proactive engagement, the space industry will be able to establish networks that develop credible, united voices about issues, products, and/or services that are important to NewSpace organizations.
CASE IN POINT: Creating an External Public Engagement Strategy for a Space Launch Organization
The primary goal of the public engagement strategy is to educate stakeholders by addressing the many misconceptions about space launches and new or existing spaceports. Systems, including those under development, are not well understood by most of the stakeholders involved, whether they are elected officials, environmental groups, or members of the general public.
Any active launch organization or facility will face a challenging stakeholder landscape:
The stakeholders involved are very diverse, with different cultures, languages, locations, etc. Very few understand how these complex space transportation systems work, what benefits they offer, or how they are able to contribute to the sustainability of global communities. This lack of awareness can create fear and otherwise hinder acceptance of exploration projects.
To address their issues, space launch companies will need to develop a structured and informed process to engage proactively and communicate efficiently with stakeholders.
Stakeholder concerns the space industry will need to address
Daily recognizes three key concerns the space industry will need to address to get stakeholders on board:
- The relevance/benefit: “How does the space industry help me as an individual on Earth?”
- The front-end expense: “Aren’t there better (and more politically beneficial) uses for the investment?”
- The global impact: “How will the space industry impact society at large?
Is it dangerous?”
As Daily puts it: “These three issues all boil down to a single basic question: ‘Can the money be spent better elsewhere?’”
Key messages to share with stakeholders
The more complex the issues, the more difficult it can be to secure stakeholder acceptance. Daily recommends industries take strategically focus their stakeholder messaging on the main goals and benefits that space commercialization will bring to each group of stakeholders. For example:
Unlimited, inexpensive energy such as space-based solar power (SBSP) from outer space can be harnessed to help power the entire planet
Communications: Unlimited communications
Global connectivity for internet communications, global positioning, financial services tracking and transactions – digital currency
The creation of new off-world locations for human expansion and survival. The creation of new medicines and treatments.
New satellite tools, techniques and processes combined with lessons learned from planet-based initiatives will advance science and help us more effectively measure and manage climate change
Space travel and recreation that expands the human experience into space
The need for in-orbit upgrades, maintenance and repair of satellites, support services, associated waste management, etc.
|industry||Main goal||main benefit to communicate|
|Energy||Free limitless energy||Unlimited, inexpensive energy such as space-based solar power (SBSP) from outer space can be harnessed to help power the entire planet|
|Communications||Unlimited communications||Global connectivity for internet communications, global positioning, financial services tracking and transactions – digital currency|
|Mining||New sources of raw material||An unlimited supply of essential raw materials that can be used for product manufacturing and energy sources (iron, rare-earth elements such as Helium 3, etc.) can be mined from asteroids|
|Healthcare and Human Resources||Population management and enrichment||New, off-world locations will be created for human expansion and survival, and new discoveries will contribute to the development of new medicines and treatments.|
|Environment||Healthier environment||New satellite tools, techniques and processes combined with lessons learned from planet-based initiatives will advance science and help us more effectively measure and manage climate change|
|Manufacturing, Agriculture & Retail||More robust industrial processes||Advances in artificial intelligence and robotics will make manufacturing processes more efficient|
|Transportation||Improved transportation||The rapid movement of space-based raw materials for processing, finished goods (freight), and even point-to-point transportation of people as a form of luxury travel|
|Travel, Recreation and Entertainment||New Human Experiences||Space travel and recreation that expands the human experience into space|
|Service & Waste Management||New employment opportunities||The need for in-orbit upgrades, maintenance and repair of satellites, support services, associated waste management, etc.|
By developing a solid stakeholder engagement plan, industries can further finesse their messaging strategy around the specific interests and priorities of key stakeholder groups – particularly those wielding great influence over project outcomes.
What regulatory constraints or industry standards apply to stakeholder engagement for NewSpace?
There are currently five international space-related treaties: the Outer Space Treaty, the Rescue Agreement, the Liability Convention, the Registration Convention, and the Moon Agreement. As with the Law of the Sea, many space-related laws and regulations are still evolving.
Daily points out that this was not an urgent issue during the Cold War when there were basically only two space-faring nations, the US and the Soviet Union. But things have changed. There are currently 12 active space-faring countries and approximately 80 countries with space-related activities. Increasingly, space-related laws and regulations will need to be agreed upon and adjudicated.
According to Daily, the primary policies, laws and regulations – along with associated fees and taxes – that will probably apply to NewSpace include:
- Airspace safety with respect to launch and recovery control
- Space debris safety responsibilities and disposal
- Environmental impact issues
- Environmentally safe processing and distribution of non-Earth materials, modeled on the current regulations addressing the handling of hazardous materials
There are three factors driving the urgency of space-related legal and policy discussions:
- The rise of inexpensive private launch capabilities. This has given rise to space commerce, which provides logistics and transportation services – just as the rail industry once did in our early industrial age, first with freight and later, by accommodating large groups of passengers. The same is expected to happen with space commerce.
- The emergence of space domain as an instrument of national recognition and power. This will be increasingly seen as global competition grows in the areas of space diplomacy, commerce, information and militarization.
- The increasing number of participants (public and private). See how using a specialized stakeholder tool can help you keep track of changing regulations and policies impacting your public affairs and government relations campaigns.
How can players in the space industry set the stage for proactive engagement and effective communication strategies?
The stakeholder landscape in space-based projects may differ from those firmly rooted on Earth, but the same stakeholder engagement methodology is still expected to apply. Implementing this proven methodology can be best achieved by using fit-for-purpose stakeholder engagement tools.
The right software will allow stakeholder management teams to:
- Easily pull up lists of relevant stakeholders by project, location, topics of interest, etc.
- Centralize information and break down silos by giving all employees access to the same complete dataset. (When everyone relies on their own list or spreadsheet, no one can see the big picture).
- Create individual and team calendars to improve planning and coordination. Use automatic reminders to keep everyone on track and ensure the right stakeholders are informed at the right time.
- Use a stakeholder mapping tool to assess stakeholders by level of interest, influence and priority, along with their multiple roles, relationships with other stakeholders, affiliations, etc.
- Use an engagement plan tool to create detailed plans for specific infrastructure, projects, districts, stakeholder groups, etc. Assign tasks, resources and deadlines to manage and track activities.
- Use tools like batch tasks, email templates, customizable distribution lists, etc. to simplify the sending, recording and management of communications to vast numbers of stakeholders.
- Keeping track of all communications with stakeholders, regardless of the method used (SMS, email, social media, Zoom call, etc.