Kickstarting the Space Economy

NASA SP 509 - Davidson 1985

NASA SP 509 - Davidson 1985

Kickstarting the space economy is one of the most important activities within the space resources community. But how can the global space economy expand from a billion dollar to a trillion dollar economy while following a sustainable business model? Ultimately this economic growth must be based on space activities where the cost of doing the activity in space reduces costs or adds additional value over the alternative of launching the final result from Earth.

The industry that kickstarts the space economy probably isn’t obvious now but will be in hindsight. This is very similar to how Apple, Google, and Amazon became billion dollar companies using business models that seem obvious today, but weren’t obvious when they were founded in the 1970’s and 1990’s, respectively.

The current space economy is comprised of the launch industry, satellite manufacturing, ground equipment manufacturing, and satellite communications and observations. However, the use of space resources allows for whole new industries to emerge, including:

  • Raw material extraction and processing (Lunar or asteroids)

  • Power generation (solar or nuclear)

  • Crystal growth and metallurgy (utilizing special zero-g processing)

  • Pharmaceutical R&D (utilizing special zero-g processing)

  • Tourism (prestige and retirement)

  • Biological R&D (contamination isolation from Earth)

  • Data centers (security via isolation and direct line of sight communication)

Heavy industrial processing and power generation hold early potential for jump starting the space economy, especially when using the Moon and power generation satellites, respectively. However, global science R&D is a trillion dollar industry and will benefit from novel research done in a zero-g environment. It just needs the research infrastructure in place and at an affordable cost.

Understanding the cutting edge of science and technology helps in predicting which potential industry will kickstart the space economy, but there is currently no absolute solution (as per the example above with modern day tech giants).

This has been a high level overview of the new space economy with special focus given to space resources. If you are interested in follow up reports, please let us know.

References

  • Arthur, Isaac. “Kickstarting Space Industry.” YouTube, YouTube, 6 Dec. 2018, youtu.be/JjVYYgUxb_0. Upward Bound, Episode 163, Season 4 E49

  • McKay, Mary Fae, David S. McKay, and Michael B. Duke. Space resources. Volume 2: Energy, power, and transport. 1992.