Public-private partnerships: Stimulating innovation in the space sector

Karen Jones
The Aerospace Corporation

Governments seeking to expand their capabilities for satellite communications, navigation, Earth monitoring, solar-system exploration, and other space applications recognize the significant role that the private sector can play in delivering these capabilities at reduced cost and risk. These public-private partnerships can provide significant advantages to government agencies by leveraging commercial efficiencies and innovation while sharing risk with the private sector in exchange for profits linked to performance.

This paper explores the reasons why government agencies may want to pursue a partnership and proposes a phased approach for strategizing, planning, and implementing it. The paper provides numerous case studies and delineates lessons learned from different public-private partnerships—some successful, and others less so.

An ideal partnership involves a delicate balance, where the government does not give up too much control and the private sector does not assume too much risk. There is no single recipe for success, and these partnerships are not appropriate for all programs and objectives—particularly in the space domain. Still, for those projects that can apply them, public-private partnerships offer attractive potential advantages in terms of faster delivery schedules, better quality of service, and greater innovation.