The space race for military supremacy has become a symbol of the Cold War. The first artificial satellite launch, Yuri Gagarin, and the landing of a man on the moon are among the most striking milestones of this confrontation. It is obvious that those projects were financed exclusively from state budgets and were in no way commercially profitable or perceived as a product for public use.
But with the collapse of the Soviet Union, everything bagan to change. And a few decades later, the new space economy, based on the efforts of non-state companies and private capital, started to flourish, primarily due to space tech innovations and satellite imagery of high resolution. And if we are talking about the commercial space industry, this means that it must be profitable. So let’s take a look at the foundations on which the new space economy stands, the opportunities it opens up, and try to foresee the future it will bring.
What New Space Economy Means
The new space economy is a global trend based on a number of technological innovations and a specific business model. It opens up new opportunities for the automotive industry, tourism, energy, telecommunications, transport and other important industries, increasing their profitability or improving the structure of work on Earth or in space.
The cost of space operations is constantly decreasing, more startups are being involved in the new structure, and the boom in the space technology market is removing the last barriers to investment. The main source of income the industry generates is the space-to-Earth economic model, where the turnover of the global space economy was mainly generated by satellite communications, the Internet, satellite Earth observation, and navigation.
In general, new space economy consists of many small industries, each of which has its own ways of monetizing services:
- Production and launch of satellites
- Satellite Internet
- Space research and space exploration
- Lunar programs
- Earth observation satellites
- Space tourism
- Spacecraft manufacturing
- Cargo delivery
- Extraction of useful resources
- The fight against the formation of space debris
First, it is an endless universe for innovations in science and technology, especially cloud computing, high-performance computing (HPC), and artificial intelligence (AI), which help to harness the possibilities of space data. This tech enables companies to provide ground stations, enhance the extraction of actionable insights from large amounts of data, automate processes, and extend the use of space-based apps on the world market.
New Space Opportunities
Space technology can help solve environmental and climate problems. Satellite images are an excellent source of data needed to assess the impact of human activities on the environment, predict changes, and take actions. Satellite technologies are key to monitoring greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy infrastructure planning, forestry monitoring, disaster management and many other areas. And private companies can fill the existing data gap as demand only grows.
Reducing the amount of space debris in orbit will be of paramount importance for the safety of orbital operations. Old parts of spaceships, debris, and non-functioning satellites that remain in orbit are extremely dangerous because this debris does not “hang”, but actually flies around the planet at a speed of tens of thousands of kilometers per hour.
Navigation systems for accurate geospatial positioning and broadband Internet service providers are currently at the peak of development. Investing in additional satellite constellations can give companies the opportunity to dominate their markets. A great example is Starlink.
It will take time for all the above developments and concepts to work in full force. In fact, we are talking about decades. The development of the space economy largely depends on technological progress, which is difficult to predict. However, there are already enough opportunities for economic and industrial progress, and public funding in many areas only spurs the development of a new space economy. Therefore, we can safely say that this industry will have not only strategic, but also important economic significance for the Earth.