Published Date: Feb 2024


The privatization of space is ushering in a new era of opportunity and growth in what is being hailed as the beginning of the global space economy. Private companies are driving down costs and increasing access to space in ways not seen since the early days of the U.S. and Soviet space programs. With the right policies and investments, this emerging space economy has the potential to generate trillions in revenue and create countless new jobs.

Lowering the Cost of Access to Space:

A major factor enabling the growth of the space economy is the drastic reduction in the cost of launching payloads to low earth orbit and beyond. Companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Orbit are developing fully or partially reusable launch vehicles that can fly frequent missions while lowering launch costs. SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, which features a reusable first stage booster, has helped decrease the average costs of launches by an order of magnitude compared to traditional expendable rockets. Their goal is to achieve the full reusability of their next-generation Starship rocket which could potentially reduce launch costs to below $10 per pound. Other companies are also pursuing innovative technologies like air-launch systems to make space more accessible. The result is that once cost-prohibitive activities like space tourism and asteroid mining are becoming financially viable.

Satellite Constellations Driving Data Needs:

A key market that has emerged is the rapid growth of satellite communications services. Companies like SpaceX, OneWeb, and Amazon are deploying massive constellations of hundreds or even thousands of small satellites that can beam high-speed internet anywhere on the planet. These low earth orbiting satellites promise higher data rates, lower latency and global coverage that terrestrial networks cannot provide. SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet service has already launched over 1,500 of its planned 12,000 satellite constellation with the goals of providing high-speed broadband internet for consumers and businesses worldwide. The data needs of these broadband constellations are driving huge investments in ground infrastructure for satellite access. Analysts project the satellite communications services market could exceed $100 billion annually within the next decade.

Enabling New Space-Based Industries:

With the falling costs of access to space, a variety of new space-based industries are emerging. Companies are developing plans to mine asteroids for precious metals and water that could fuel in-space operations. Space tourism is poised to become viable as SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin prepare to fly private citizens on orbital and suborbital spaceflights. Meanwhile lunar landers from companies like Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines are part of NASA's Artemis program which aims to return astronauts to the Moon. Beyond government exploration, these landers could support new lunar industries like mining, construction, and tourism. Agriculture is also looking to space, with firms developing technology to grow food efficiently for Earth and off-planet colonies using hydroponics and aeroponics under LED lights. The global space industry revenues currently total around $350 billion annually but with all of these new sectors developing, it has the potential to multiply several times over within the next few decades.

Sustainability and the Responsible Use of Space:

With the increasing commercialization and industrialization of space, there is also a need for appropriate oversight and policies to ensure its sustainable use and development. Concerns have been raised around issues like space traffic management, orbital debris mitigation, and resource rights. Current international space treaties were designed for a time with only two spacefaring nations and need modernizing to encompass new realities. Going forward, any nation or company operating in space will need to do so responsibly to avoid accidents and conflicts that could stall progress. Measures around sustainability reporting, debris remediation plans, and technology standards will need to be established. Public-private partnerships that align commercial and government interests in space exploration responsibly will help maximize benefits while minimizing risks to critical infrastructure like communications satellites upon which society has grown increasingly dependent. With care and cooperation, space can be opened in a way that inspires and supports humanity for generations to come.

New Era of Opportunity in Orbit:

From communications to mining to aerospace manufacturing, the emerging space economy presents a future full of possibility. Independent analyses project the global space economy could generate annual revenues of $1 trillion or higher within the coming decades. This new space renaissance also promises to create millions of well-paying technology jobs around the world. By lowering launch costs and enabling new applications of space, private companies are unleashing innovation at a rate not seen since the early days of the space race. With a coordinated approach between industry and government, space can serve as a unifying common goal with almost limitless potential to benefit life on Earth. With its boundless frontier and inspiring potential, the opening of the new space age invites humanity to embark on our greatest adventure yet as we enter a new era of access and opportunity in orbit.