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Unveiling the Vast Expanse: Space Industry Trends and Market Growth

Introduction

The space industry, once the realm of government space agencies and a handful of astronauts, has witnessed an extraordinary transformation in recent years. No longer confined to the heavens, space has become the new frontier for scientific exploration, economic opportunity, and technological advancement.

In recent years, the space industry has experienced unprecedented growth, with a renewed interest in space exploration and a surge of private sector investments. From moon missions to Mars colonization plans, space has become the next frontier for innovation and business opportunities. In this article, we will delve into the remarkable trends shaping the space industry and the promising market growth it is experiencing.

The Expansive Space Economy

Space exploration has captured the global imagination once again, sparked by events like Russia’s lunar landing attempt and India’s successful Chandrayaan-3 mission. Space economy is the full range of activities and the use of resources that create value and benefits to human beings in the course of exploring, researching, understanding, managing, and utilizing space. In the wake of these endeavors, experts from GlobalData and Morgan Stanley are forecasting that the space economy is poised to reach an astonishing $1 trillion by 2040.

The space economy encompasses a wide spectrum of activities and resource utilization designed to provide value and benefits to humanity. It revolves around the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services related to space. This includes the development of satellites, launch services, ground equipment, and various downstream applications. Furthermore, it encompasses the commercial utilization of space resources, such as satellite-based communication, navigation, and remote sensing.

Geopolitical and economic factors

These renewed space ambitions align with key geopolitical and economic factors, with multipolar geopolitics and the militarization of space emerging as pivotal trends in the development of the space economy.

The concept of space sustainability takes center stage, driven by concerns such as orbital debris, militarization, geopolitics, and regulation. The race for control over space-based assets is intensifying, characterized by anti-satellite (ASAT) weaponry and advanced satellite technologies for tracking hypersonic threats. As costs continue to decrease and geopolitical motivations grow, this competitive atmosphere is set to expand, raising questions about the responsible use of space for both civilian and military purposes.

Space-based assets, however, extend beyond military applications. India’s recent lunar mission is a testament to the broader possibilities of space exploration. By successfully landing on the Moon’s South Pole, India is at the forefront of the search for lunar water ice—a resource that holds immense potential for future space missions, providing fuel, oxygen, and drinking water. Simultaneously, other global players like Russia, Japan, and the European Space Agency are eyeing the mining of the rare isotope Helium-3, hinting at a new lunar resource rush.

In 2023, the most significant limiting factor for space activities remains the cost of overcoming Earth’s gravitational pull and the design constraints this imposes on spacecraft. Nevertheless, the prospect of extracting valuable elements, such as gold, cobalt, platinum, and iron from asteroids, opens up the potential to revolutionize human activities in space. The value of these resources is substantial, with databases like Asterank estimating that the ten closest asteroids to Earth could yield profits of approximately $1.5 trillion in today’s economy.

Private Sector Boom

One of the most significant trends in the space industry is the surge of private sector involvement. Companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic have become household names. They are competing in a new space race, not for national prestige, but for commercial success. These companies have made substantial advancements in rocket technology, space tourism, and satellite deployment, opening up entirely new markets in the process.

Mars Missions and Colonization

Exploring and colonizing Mars has been a dream of scientists and science fiction enthusiasts for decades. In recent years, this dream has moved closer to reality. NASA’s Artemis program aims to return astronauts to the Moon by 2025, a stepping stone for a potential Mars mission. Private companies like SpaceX are also working on missions to the Red Planet. The successful landing of the Perseverance rover on Mars in 2021 has ignited excitement for future Martian exploration.

Space Tourism

Space tourism is no longer science fiction. Commercial ventures like Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin have begun offering suborbital flights for private individuals. These ventures represent just the beginning, with plans for orbital hotels and longer stays in microgravity on the horizon. The space tourism industry has the potential to be a significant driver of market growth.

Small Satellite Revolution

The demand for smaller and more affordable satellites is booming. Advancements in miniaturization and cost reduction have led to a surge in the production and deployment of small satellites. These satellites are used for a range of applications, from Earth observation and telecommunications to scientific research. The SmallSat market is projected to experience tremendous growth in the coming years.

Space Debris Mitigation

While the new space race promises unparalleled opportunities, it also raises concerns about environmental impact. Rocket launches contribute to ozone layer damage, while orbital debris, often referred to as “space junk,” poses threats to sustainability and safety. NASA and the US Department of Defense (DoD) are currently tracking over 27,000 pieces of orbital debris, endangering both the International Space Station and other space vehicles with human passengers.

Organizations and companies are actively working on solutions for debris mitigation and removal. The development of space debris removal technologies will likely become a substantial market in the near future.

Space Warfare

Space has rapidly evolved into a fiercely contested domain, accentuating the critical importance of achieving “space domain awareness” for both private and governmental stakeholders, entailing the identification, characterization, and comprehension of objects within Earth’s orbit. Furthermore, the establishment of the “Space Force” in 2019 as the United States’ sixth military branch is poised to propel public sector investments, particularly in 2021 and beyond. The US Space Command, responsible for overseeing space operations through assets managed by the Space Force, is anticipated to facilitate accelerated investments in cutting-edge technologies and capabilities within the Aerospace and Defense (A&D) sector. Simultaneously, China and Russia are strategically enhancing their military capacities in the realm of space, signaling a global trend towards strengthening military capabilities beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

 

In 2020, space investments remained strong at $25.6 billion, and the momentum for investments is likely to remain solid in 2021 as well. There has also been an increase in state-backed investment in space projects around the world, according to the Space Foundation report. There was a 19% jump in overall government spending on military and civilian space programmes last year. India raised spending by 36%, China invested 23% more and the US pumped another 18% into space ventures.

 

The space economy can be divided into three main segments:

  1. Space manufacturing and launch services: This includes the production of satellites and launch vehicles.
  2. Ground equipment and services: This includes ground-based equipment used for satellite operations and satellite-based services such as satellite-based internet and GPS.
  3. Space applications and downstream services: The economic impact of space industry also extends beyond the space sector itself, it creates opportunities in many other industries such as telecommunications, navigation, earth observation, and many other fields. This includes the use of space-based data and services for a wide range of applications, such as weather forecasting, natural resources management, and emergency response.

 

Space launch services are expected to record strong growth in 2021, with the market forecast to grow more than 15.7% year over year. Space exploration is also expected to continue to evolve and grow in 2021 due to declining launch costs and advances in technology.

 

And over 1,000 spacecraft were put into orbit in the first six months of this year, the report says – more than were launched in the first 52 years of space exploration (1957-2009).

Satellite applications include monitoring greenhouse-gas emissions from companies and regions, helping utilities optimize renewable energy infrastructure and mining data to project how climate change could affect particular industries.

 

Key Drivers of the Space Economy

Several key themes are propelling the remarkable expansion of the space economy:

  1. Climate Change: Satellites are now playing a pivotal role in monitoring and addressing climate change, offering invaluable insights into the intensification of industries and human activities affecting our environment.
  2. Security: Governments worldwide are increasingly investing in space to enhance national security, with applications ranging from navigation to satellite-based communications. Security concerns have become a driving force behind space activities.
  3. Telecommunications: The demand for enhanced telecommunications services is another significant driver of space economy growth, underpinning the development of satellite-based internet and global connectivity solutions.

Market Growth

The space economy has experienced impressive expansion in recent years, with private sector investments, technological advancements, and the growing demand for space-based applications driving the industry forward. As of 2019, the global space economy was valued at $339 billion, and it is projected to reach $547 billion by 2029, according to a study by Euroconsult. In 2020, space investments remained strong at $25.6 billion, with momentum expected to continue throughout 2021. Additionally, state-backed investments in space projects have increased, with a notable 19% surge in government spending on military and civilian space programs.

The Space Economy Segments

The space economy can be divided into three main segments:

  1. Space Manufacturing and Launch Services: This includes satellite production and the development of launch vehicles for deploying satellites into space.
  2. Ground Equipment and Services: This encompasses ground-based equipment for satellite operations and services such as satellite-based internet and GPS.
  3. Space Applications and Downstream Services: Beyond the space sector, space technology offers opportunities in various industries, including telecommunications, navigation, earth observation, and more.

Space industry segments are continuously evolving, driven by the development of new technologies and the demand for space-based services.

The Promising Future of the Space Economy

The space industry is expected to continue its rapid growth, with a strong focus on satellite broadband internet access and a substantial decline in launch costs. Companies are working toward achieving critical mass and harnessing the full potential of space as a valuable resource. Launch costs are projected to decrease significantly, opening the door for innovation and expanding opportunities for space-based services such as satellite broadband and manufacturing.

Space Industry

As funding continues to increase and costs decline, the space industry is likely to experience increased opportunities, primarily in satellite broadband internet access.

The space economy also creates many indirect benefits, such as employment and the creation of new businesses.  A host of private-sector companies are now investing in space programmes, seeking everything from scientific advances to potentially lucrative business opportunities. It’s estimated that there are now more than 10,000 firms and around 5,000 investors involved in the space industry.  The space industry is projected to generate more than 100,000 jobs by 2030.

The space industry is a rapidly growing field that encompasses a wide range of activities, from satellite launches and space exploration to the development of new technologies and applications for space-based systems. Some of the key areas of the space industry include:

  1. Satellite Launches: This includes the design, development, and launch of satellites for a variety of purposes, such as communication, navigation, remote sensing, and earth observation.
  2. Space Exploration: This includes the exploration of space through the use of spacecraft, such as robotic rovers and human-crewed missions to the Moon, Mars, and other destinations.
  3. Space-based Technologies: This includes the development of new technologies and applications for space-based systems, such as satellite-based internet and GPS, as well as space-based solar power and space debris removal.
  4. Space Science and Research: This includes the study of the Earth, the solar system, and the universe through the use of telescopes, satellites, and other space-based instruments.
  5. Space Transportation: This includes the development of new spacecraft and launch vehicles for human and cargo transportation to and from space.
  6. Space Applications: These are the applications that use space technology, for example, weather forecasting, natural resources management, and many more.

The space industry is a highly interdisciplinary field, drawing on advances in engineering, physics, computer science, and many other fields. It is also a global industry, with many countries and private companies investing in space-related activities.

The space industry is expected to continue to grow in the coming years, as advances in technology and the increasing demand for space-based applications drive the development of new and innovative space-related products and services.

But the space sector is not only a growth sector in itself – it’s also proving a key enabler of growth and efficiency in other sectors. The European Space Agency says the deployment of new space infrastructure has brought benefits to industries including meteorology, energy, telecommunications, insurance, transport, maritime, aviation and urban development.

Most of this money came from the private sector rather than the public sector, the report says, estimating that more than $224 billion was generated from products and services delivered by space companies.

Space-related technologies are being developed in an enormous speed nowadays. Launch vehicle, satellite, propulsion, manufacturing and other companies emerge every quarter. Big companies in spacetech share their innovations and breakthroughs every week. Several countries have already
planned their Mars colonization projects, others have the clear vision of lunar scientific stations. Space tourism has finally become available and is on its way to becoming more and more accessible.

NASA’s drive to push forward exploration of the final frontier with missions to the moon, Mars and into deep space has led to the invention of dozens of new technologies over the decades. These have allowed for the development of products that have transformed daily life, such as camera phones, laptops, memory foam, CAT scans and even baby formula. As government entities like NASA set their sights on ambitious missions, such as Mars exploration, private companies are focusing on low-Earth-orbit transportation, satellite launches and commercial human spaceflight. Government agencies are also welcoming greater involvement from the investment community to develop the commercial potential of space and space-related markets.

 

Spacetech industry is made of a big variety of spheres. From companies that study propulsion and manufacture engines to the companies that develop medicine for astronauts. From those that
only produce specific materials to those that design both software and hardware for the launch vehicle.

 

Since SpaceTech is a really broad industry tag, there are a lot of companies that touch upon space-related technologies, but don’t quite reach the scale of space exploration, like television providers
for example.

 

There is a list of companies that fully manufacture unmanned and/or manned launch vehicles, that carry the payload to different levels of Earth orbit. They usually specialize and differ much. Some are good for launching nano-satellites, others benefit from being fully customizable. Some leading companies manufacture the crucial parts of the launch vehicles. For example thrusters of space station modules. Some even assemble specialized satellites or develop new technologies,
that can be capitalized on in near future. Most of them attach much investments.

 

Over the long term, costs will likely continue to decline, with companies in the space ecosystem focused on reaching critical mass. For example, there are over 1,000 Starlink satellites launched into orbit by SpaceX, and the company aims to deploy 4,425 satellites in orbit by 2024 as its launch costs decline, driven by reusable rockets and mass production of satellites. Launch costs for a satellite have already declined from $200 million in the past decade to nearly $60 million currently and have the potential to fall further to as low as $5 million.

 

The space industry should reach $1 trillion in annual revenue by 2040, with launch costs dropping 95%, Citigroup analysts said in an extensive report published in May 2022. A further decline in the cost of accessing space would create more opportunities for technological expansion and innovation, unlocking more services from orbit such as satellite broadband and manufacturing, the bank added.

 

“Fundamentally, with the new generation of space being driven by the commercial sector, the launch industry is seeing a secular shift from being largely cost-plus pricing-based to being value-based in order to open up new markets and maximize profitability,” Citi said. “Previously, the launch market had a limited number of government-supported companies that were concerned more with military capability and creating revenue and jobs than with increasing operational efficiency.”

 

The increasingly common practice of reusing rocket boosters is driving that cost down. Citi estimates launch costs could fall to about $30 per kilogram by 2040 in a best-case scenario. If rockets are “still only being reused around 10 times” each by 2040, which SpaceX is already doing, the cost still comes down significantly to about $300 per kilogram, the firm said.

 

Private investment in space companies, especially from venture capital, has steadily broken annual records over the past decade. In 2021 space infrastructure companies received $14.5 billion of private investment, according to Space Capital’s quarterly report, which tracks about 1,700 companies.

 

A flurry of space companies went public in 2021 through SPAC deals, but most of the stocks are struggling despite the industry’s growth. The shifting market environment, with climbing interest rates hitting technology and growth stocks hard, have seen space stocks drop as well. Shares of about a dozen space companies are off 50% or more since their debut.

 

Despite Citi’s optimistic outlook, the firm emphasized that much remains speculative in the industry, “such as space-based solar power, moon/asteroid mining, space logistics/cargo, space tourism, intercity rocket travel, and microgravity R&D and construction.”

 

“A similar analogy would be attempting to forecast the value of the internet today versus nearly 20 years ago when the term ‘smartphone’ was relatively unknown and before broadband replaced dial-up internet connections,” the analysts said.

 

As the space sector expands, companies large and small are adopting new business models, including Space Data as a Service, Satellite as a Service and Ground Station as a Service, These new models are emerging as the space sector is witnessing large commercialization of satellite applications, which has opened new opportunities through the use of small satellites, on-orbit servicing, and low Earth orbit constellations. These services promise the benefits of space without the demands of satellite manufacturing, government regulations, launch integration or space data delivery.

 

The US is a leader in the number of SpaceTech companies and the amount of investment they receive. The US is still firmly in the lead in terms of the number of spacetech companies (52.1%). The UK ranks second (5.7%), while Canada, Germany, India and China are in the third place (with 4.5%, 3.8%, 3.4% and 2.7% respectively). However, Asia is confidently gaining momentum in the financing of companies in the industry. Thanks to the new space goals of the United Arab Emirates, the Middle East entered the race as well.

 

The satellite market makes up the largest slice of the space economy, at over 70%, and Citi says the sector “is undergoing a paradigm shift in demand.”

 

While satellite revenues have dominantly come from services like television, the bank sees an expansion into applications ranging from consumer broadband to mobile connectivity to internet-of-things networks.

 

The bank believes the expansive satellite networks of SpaceX’s Starlink and Amazon’s
Project Kuiper will accelerate this shift through “greater accessibility” to internet services across the globe.

 

Another sector Citi sees strong gains in is satellite imagery, which the firm estimates makes up about 2%, or $2.6 billion, of the current space economy. The bank forecasts an expansion in the sector driven by “space-as-a-service” applications, reaching $17 billion in annual sales by 2040.

 

The largest companies by market capitalization are William Hills, MultiChoice Group Limited, Eli Lilly and Company, Danaher Corporation and Honeywell International.

Some of leading spacetech companies include Advantech Wireless, Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings,  AirBorn, Airbus, ALCOA Inc., Alliant Techsystems, Analog Devices, Inc., Anaren,  Ariane Group, Aselsan, Avcorp Industries, B/E Aerospace, BAE Systems, Inc., Ball Aerospace,  BGF Industries,  Blue Origin, BlueHalo, Boeing, CMC Electronics, Inc.,  Cobham, Collins Aerospace, Crane Aerospace & Electronics, CS GROUP in SPACE, Curtiss-Wright Corporation, Daiichi System Engineering, Dassault Aviation, Dish Network, Amgen, Arrowhead Products, Carlisle Interconnect Technologies, Draper, Ducommun, Inc., DWG Holdings, Hamilton Sundstrand, 7 Harris Corporation, Honeywell Aerospace, IEC Electronics, IHI Corporation, JSC Information Satellite Systems, KBR, Inc., Kratos Defense and Security Solutions, L3Harris Technologies,  Leonardo, LMI Aerospace Inc., Lockheed Martin, Maxar Technologies,  Meggitt,  Inmarsat,  Mission Essential, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Moog Inc.,  Nortech Systems, Northrop Grumman, Dynetics, Inc.,  EaglePicher Technologies, ENSCO, FDC Composites inc,  Flexan Corporation, General Atomics,  General Electric,  Gentex,  GKN Aerospace, OHB-System AG, Precision Castparts, Roscosmos, RUAG, Safran, Tesat-Spacecom,  Saint-Gobain Aerospace, SES S.A., Sierra Nevada Corporation, Sifco Industries,  SiriusXM,  Spirit AeroSystems, Swales Aerospace, Teledyne Technologies, Inc., SpaceX, TERMA Group, The Aerospace Corporation, Thales Defence,  TransDigm Group Inc.,  Trimble Inc., TRW Inc., United Launch Alliance, United Technologies, UTC Aerospace, Victrex, Virgin Group, ONERA,  Orbital ATK,  Orbital Sciences LLC,  Qinetiq Canada,  Raytheon Technologies, Rockwell Collins,  Roketsan, OHB-System AG, Precision Castparts, Roscosmos,  RUAG, Safran

 

Regulations and space junk

Expanding the space economy won’t be easy, though, the firm said, noting that the harsh environment of space, the steep upfront capital costs and the long timeline to see returns on space projects all represent significant growth risks.

Citi stressed that the perception of space “as a mere hobby for billionaires” represents another risk, as the industry “needs to gain public acceptance before it can be adopted across various industries.” While investment from private entities has driven down the cost of access to space, with more people and spacecraft flying for a fraction of what governments have been able to accomplish, the perception that space companies are ego-driven pet projects of the most wealthy individuals can damage the industry’s potential, the firm said.

As to human spaceflight, Citi noted that the failure rate for crewed launches is less than 2% historically. But that “is still far too high for space passenger flights,” it said, given that commercial aviation experiences failures at the minuscule rate of about 0.0001%.

Telecoms a Near-Term Focus

Satellite operators see value across all three orbital altitudes—GEO, MEO and LEO (Geostationary Equatorial Orbit, Medium Earth Orbit and Low Earth Orbit, respectively)—with companies taking different approaches to blending them.

GEO still underpins the industry, but telecoms also want to provide differentiated broadband services with integrated, seamless offerings for consumer, business and government customers.

Regulatory risk represents another obstacle for the industry, Citi noted. There are several federal and international entities responsible for approving and regulating space companies. Telecoms will also need to work with regulators at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and the UN’s International Telecommunication Union to treat space as a shared global resource, with spectrum rights and orbital debris being two key issues.

 

Mitigating Orbital Debris

According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the number of active satellites in orbit is set to vastly increase by 50% or more in the years ahead. As space becomes more congested, the threat of “space junk”—orbital debris from old spacecraft and satellites—to new satellites and rocket launches has grown.  Tens of thousands of artificial objects are tracked in orbit around the Earth, with many times that expected to be in orbit but are too small to be tracked. Some government agencies now struggle to track this orbital debris, creating potential demand for private companies to monitor and manage this potentially catastrophic space waste.

 

“This increases the risk of the ‘Kessler Syndrome’ becoming a reality — the idea that space junk in orbit around the earth, with no air resistance to slow it down, will reach a saturation point where it simply collides with other space junk and fragments into smaller pieces, until it eventually creates a debris field that stops any new satellites from being launched,” Citi said.

Challenges on the Horizon

While the space economy offers immense opportunities, it is not without its challenges. The industry must address the issue of space debris, which poses a threat to ongoing missions and future satellite launches. Regulatory risks are also prevalent, requiring collaboration with federal and international entities for approvals and regulations.

Moreover, the perception of space activities as mere hobbies for billionaires must be overcome to gain broader public acceptance and support for the space industry’s commercial potential. Additionally, commercial aviation and space passenger flights need to address safety concerns to enhance public trust.

Conclusion

The space industry is not only a rapidly growing sector but also a catalyst for growth and efficiency in numerous other industries. The benefits of space technology are increasingly visible across sectors such as meteorology, energy, telecommunications, insurance, transport, and more.

The space industry is undergoing a transformation. Once the exclusive domain of government space agencies, it has now become a commercial playground, filled with opportunities for growth and innovation. As private companies push the boundaries of space exploration, new markets are emerging, from space tourism to space debris mitigation. The space industry continues to advance, offering new services and driving innovative technologies. As space endeavors soar to new heights, the growth trajectory of the space economy is indeed one to watch, offering a world of possibilities and opportunities for humanity’s future.

The growth in the space industry is not just about reaching for the stars; it’s about reaching for new economic frontiers, where the sky is no longer the limit. With continuous technological advancements and ambitious plans for future missions, it’s an exciting time to keep an eye on the space industry and the remarkable journey that lies ahead.

 

 

References and Resources also include:

https://www.cnbc.com/2022/05/21/space-industry-is-on-its-way-to-1-trillion-in-revenue-by-2040-citi.html

https://analytics.dkv.global/spacetech/SpaceTech-Industry-2021-Report.pdf

https://www.airforce-technology.com/news/space-economy-forecasted-to-be-worth-1-trillion-by-2040/?cf-view

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