Mars-Rover 2.0: Innovating Space Exploration
Sommersemester 2019 - TumbleWeed
With humanity aiming to become multiplanetary within the next decades, Mars is the most promising candidate, due to its proximity to earth, vast resources and frozen water reservoirs. But before manned space mission can be launched, a sufficient amount of data about the Red Planet has to be gathered. Space agencies and private space companies have recognized the need for Mars exploration. Nonetheless, current endeavours face three main challenges: high costs, low speed and little space for scientific instruments. Team Tumbleweed aims to overcome these with its highly innovative approach in form of a wind-driven rover that is fast, modular, mass-producible, and that drives down cost by using more off-the-shelf components.
It was our duty for Team Tumbleweed to construct their business model, analyze the demand for their technology, do extensive market research, as well as identify how revenue could be generated with the Tumbleweed. Another challenge was to help them construct a business plan, which they used to participate in the incubation program of the European Space Agency.
First, the business model was constructed with the business model canvas. Afterwards, it was important to figure out, how much the three identified problems mentioned above matter to potential customers. This was a way to confirm the demand for the Tumbleweed. Thus, a questionnaire was designed and sent out to different departments of renown universities and industry experts.
Furthermore, an extensive market analysis was conducted, and the commercial Mars industry was examined from different perspectives. At first, we identified the position of Team Tumbleweed in the value chain. Secondly, another survey was sent out in order to figure out how much potential customers are willing to pay for Mars experiments. These results were used to calculate the market size, as well as to estimate the revenue. Lastly, a competitor analysis and a PESTEL-analysis were made in order to analyse the general environmental forces in the space industry.
With the help of the business model canvas, the three main target groups of Team Tumbleweed were identified: companies, space agencies and universities. These can be categorized in two different user segments - one interested in the payload space and the other interested in secondary data. Companies and space agencies are more interested in the former, whereas universities in the latter. The segments were identified through the first questionnaire.
The main result of our research was the massive growth of the market for space exploration. In order to withstand the constant movement, the focus should be on investments in and cooperation with suppliers and customers as they possess very high power. Team Tumbleweed is dependent on the former to deliver the right material at a reasonable price, so there is the danger for forward integration. At the same time, Team Tumbleweed also relies on the latter to be interested in buying payload space or data of Mars from them. Therefore, there is the danger of backwards integration as well.
Revenue will be generated from the sale of secondary data collected by the Tumbleweed and the sale of payload space, which can be used for instruments, experiments and hardware tests. An additional revenue stream will be the licensing of technologies, developed for the rover.
By analysing the competition, we came to the conclusion that there is no direct competitor at the moment, as Team Tumbleweed aims to be the first commercial payload and data provider on Mars. Nevertheless, the Tumbleweed is comparable to similar services like the Lunar Payloads (moon exploration) and NASA and ESA rovers (non-commercial research).
Assoz.Prof Dr. Peter Keinz
Barbara Mehner, M.Sc.