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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

The role of public private partnerships in driving sustainable space transportation projects

The space exploration and transportation realm, once dominated by governmental agencies, has witnessed a paradigm shift with the advent of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs). These collaborations, such as the one between NASA, Space X, and Orbital ATK, symbolize a new frontier in space endeavors, intertwining technological advancement with global interconnectivity and the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aspirations.

While existing literature has extensively explored the technical aspect of space transportation, there remains a notable gap in understanding the holistic integration of sustainability principles within these PPPs. This dissertation seeks to fill this gap, posing the central question: "How can sustainability concerns be incorporated into Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) for Space Transportation?" To address this, the research critically examines existing literature and conducts a Case Study Analysis of NASA's Commercial Space Transportation Services (COTS) program. The analysis employs the UNECE People-First Public-Private Partnerships (PfPPP) framework, a comprehensive tool for evaluating the sustainability of PPP projects.

The results show from an economic perspective, space transportation PPPs offer essential services cost-effectively and innovatively. However, the accessibility to these benefits is not universal. A few countries currently engage in these endeavors, potentially deepening global disparities and leading to social inequality. The replicability of the COTS project, while serving as a benchmark for space transportation PPPs, is primarily feasible within the USA due to its specific regulatory environment. Other nations, with their distinct regulatory frameworks, may face challenges in adopting a similar approach. The initial findings shed light on recognizing certain sustainability dimensions in space projects. The environmental repercussions of space transportation, from rocket launches to space debris, necessitate a robust regulatory. In addition, the unique challenges and opportunities presented by space activities necessitate a tailored approach to assessing the sustainability of these partnerships. In response, this research introduces a framework tailored to address the unique challenges of space transportation. Synthesized from the research insights, this framework endeavors to guide future sustainable space transportation PPP project.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.