What is the Space Economy?
In the eyes of some of the world’s biggest and boldest entrepreneurs, industries such as banking, FinTech, and aviation are no longer exciting. For them, space is the new frontier. The ‘space economy’ – which consists of all commercial activities conducted in and related to space – is already worth USD325 billion.
But the industry landscape today is extremely different from what it was a few decades ago. Space is no longer simply about satellite orbits and missions to Mars in search of life. As you read this article, companies are looking at how they can enter the space market to seek new opportunities, from commercial space travel to asteroid mining.
In fact, the industry is projected to grow to USD1 trillion over the next 20 years.
“SPACE IS NO LONGER SIMPLY ABOUT MISSIONS TO MARS IN SEARCH OF LIFE. COMPANIES ARE ENTERING THE SPACE MARKET TO SEEK NEW OPPORTUNITIES.”
Who are the big players & what are they doing?
The competition is heating up. Here are the companies currently at the forefront of the new space race and shaping the space economy:
1. SpaceX – Elon Musk kick-started SpaceX in 2002 to colonise Mars. In order to do so, SpaceX is working on Starship, a multi-billion dollar spacecraft that will carry 100 passengers and large cargo to the red planet. Ultimately, Elon anticipates Mars’ first base to be up and running in 2028.
SpaceX also plans to launch 12,000 Starlink satellites that will form a megaconstellation to provide affordable Internet connections on Earth. If successful, Starlink could bring in USD30-USD50 billion of revenue every year.
2. Virgin Galactic – Founder Sir Richard Branson wants to fly tourists to space. And he wants to send them every 32 hours in a ship known as VSS Unity (also SpaceShipTwo). The spacecraft will hold 6 passengers and offer them the chance to experience a few minutes of weightlessness 100km above Earth.
Tickets start at USD250,000.
3. Blue Origin – Founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin recently unveiled the design of its autonomous lunar lander – Blue Moon. The spacecraft is meant to bring 3.6-6.5 metric tons of cargo to the moon (i.e. 4 large moon rovers) – and eventually, humans.
Blue Origin is also collaborating with NASA on other projects that include experiencing space for 11 minutes (one ticket = over USD200,000).
4. Amazon – Earlier this year, Amazon announced Project Kuiper, an initiative that will launch 3,236 satellites into space. The satellites will create an integrated network that beams high-speed internet to any location on Earth.
Morgan Stanley has predicted that Project Kuiper will provide a “USD100 billion opportunity” for the consumer broadband sector of the space economy.
So, when will I be able to travel to space?
Out of all of the big players we’ve examined, Blue Origin seems to be ahead of the game in the tourist sector of the space economy. As of late, it has plans to start selling tickets to transport passengers into space by 2020.
However, unless you’re a celebrity entrepreneur or famous Hollywood star, chances are that you might have to queue up and only get a (literal) taste of space starting in 2021 – if all goes well with the tech, of course.