Research Project

Analysis of Technology Transfer within Satellite Programs in Developing Countries using Systems Architecture

Global participation in space activity is growing as satellite technology matures and spreads through technology transfer. Countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America are creating or reinvigorating national satellite programs. These countries are building local capability in space through technological learning. This project analyzes implementation approaches in small satellite programs within developing countries. The study addresses diverse examples of approaches used to master, adapt, diffuse and apply satellite technology in emerging countries. An original framework examines implementation approaches and contextual factors using the concept of Systems Architecture. Further analysis examines the progress in capability building via technology transfer. In order to master the knowledge base underlying satellite engineering, both individuals and organizations must capture a broad knowledge base which includes both tacit and explicit knowledge about technical and managerial topics. The framework also defines capability building as a process. This capability building framework is applied to in-depth analysis of four countries in Africa and Asia. A key question to consider is how countries adapt, master and diffuse technology over the long term. Several countries stand out for their effort in this area, but this is a long term challenge.

Space technology has the potential to provide information, infrastructure and inspiration that meets national needs in developing regions. Many countries recognize this; in response they are investing in new national satellite programs to harness satellite services. Technology related to space is one example of a tool that can contribute to development both by addressing societal challenges and by advancing a nation’s technological capability. Space activity can promote national development by providing information services, building technological capability, enabling economic activity, inspiring new technology applications and building scientific knowledge. A number of international organizations, including the United Nations, have recognized the opportunity for space technology to serve developing countries; they pursue long term programs to promote this potential. Meanwhile, governments in many developing countries also view space as an important tool for their development. All nations have on-going activities to ensure that space is harnessed in their country. A smaller set of nations are establishing programs to operate nationally owned satellites. This trend is enabled by the increasing performance of smaller, less expensive satellites. The countries that are the focus of this study seek to transition from owning satellites purchased abroad to attaining national capability to design and build satellites. One approach that countries around the world are using to initiate satellite development capability is to execute a Collaborative Satellite Development Project (CSDP) in partnership with an experienced foreign firm.

Graph showing capability building with satellite technology program

This project explores how CSDPs contribute to national development using two types of analysis. The first analysis adapts a Systems Architecture Framework to examine and contrast the implementation approaches used by various countries that participate in CSDPs. The second analysis adapts a Capability Building Framework to observe how individuals and organizations progress in their ability to perform the tasks within a CSDP. Both frameworks elucidate the factors that influence how a CSDP contributes to national development. The analysis builds on extensive field data collection that gathered evidence from six Collaborative Satellite Development Projects performed by countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Ultimately, the project synthesizes the Systems Architecture and Capability Building analyses to reflect on how the CSDPs contribute to national development.

Filed in:

Center for Systems Science and Engineering