Recently, I conducted a survey of some of the most beloved space tech startups. I wanted to get a better idea of their business model, analyze their value proposition and study the solution they were bringing to the table. I peeked at their management structure and noticed something interesting. I asked one company who their CIO was, and they relayed to me: “We’re a space transportation startup, we don’t really need a Chief Information Officer.” That got me thinking, whether your space company really needs a CIO.

Traditionally, a CIO at any big corporation lays out a company’s strategy and executes its internal IT infrastructure. The CIO is responsible for answering the big questions, such as should a company rely on a local data center or instead outsource its data to cloud MSPs. He or she is responsible for whether the company adapts specific security measures, and how often should employees be tasked with resetting their account password. But as the world moves toward the digital information age, customer information starts to mingle with an organization’s internal IT infrastructure.

Furthermore, what should space companies do with all the customer data they now possess? Companies need to search for the best way possible to provide customer access to the satellite test data they previously collected. If a customer paid for the launch, does that necessarily grant them access to view their launch data too? Companies need to assess whether they should allow customers to later purchase their in-orbit data. On one hand, companies are collecting more data and strive to please, and yet they must decide what to do with this overabundance of data. Companies are eager to help fulfill customers’ insatiable needs to gain more insights and help them perform better in the future. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s easy for space companies whose main business is to sell data to have a strong IT presence, because that is the core of their business. However, it is unclear why companies that provide space transportation really need to justify having a full-time CIO. Should the Los Angeles Metro have an IT strategy? The Metro’s focus is to keep the bus running smoothly and on time, so possessing computing and data seems like a secondary concern. However, in reality the Metro has an entire IT department to run information distribution, since today’s passengers demand it. Maybe five years ago, people would simply wait at the bus stop hoping for their line to arrive, but today’s passengers now have an app that lets them know when their bus is arriving, and if there are any major traffic jams on their chosen route. Today’s passengers know that information is way more valuable than that $2 bus fare – knowledge is power.

So, what does this mean for space companies? A space company that doesn’t possess a solid IT infrastructure that can provide its customers with added-value services will quickly go extinct. Today’s customers want real-time data and information along with the services they’re paying for. If customers on Earth expect this same type of service, then you can bet that space businesses will demand the same. Here are some key points to consider when building your space company’s IT infrastructure:

Collect more data – Adding extra sensors and providing Space-grade data storage options are possible, but bandwidth to Earth is becoming more congested. Companies need to decide which data should be processed and stored in space, and which needs to come back down to Earth for deeper analysis.

Possess AI talents
– The more data you have, the more analytical capabilities a company requires. Meanwhile, the AI talent pool is becoming increasing competitive. Companies need to choose how much analytical capabilities should be outsourced or whether they should be supplied in-house.

Offer digital upgrade packages – Customers are looking for add-on packages and want to access that extra data, which could boost their future product offerings. Companies should consider offering digital upgrade packages.

Become future-proof – The future is changing rapidly, and as new technology abounds, companies need to be prepared to integrate them into future offerings. Companies need to question whether quantum computing could change their business offerings or whether 3D-printing spacecrafts in space will render their technology obsolete. Companies need to have a plan of action to incorporate any of these imminent-future technologies.

Data management in space is paramount and requires innovative approaches to gear us toward a better and brighter future. Processing and storing data in space with next-generation-level computing can enable a plethora of space applications and services to be future-proof. Perhaps that all starts with selling customers an all-you-can-eat access pass to their data. One thing is certain: the future of data is coming, we’re ready, and we welcome you aboard.

Lisa Kuo serves as VP of Strategic Sales at Ramon.Space.