The new space race
Other sectors

The original ‘space race’ between the former USSR and the United States ended on 17 July 1975. Towards 2030, a new space race will unfold. Private companies, fuelled by venture capital and new technology, will drive the commercialization of low Earth orbit, delivering better and new space services for communication, navigation, Earth observation and space tourism. At the same time, government agencies will refocus their attention on the Moon, Mars and beyond, opening near-Earth space for business.

The final frontier – for business

A new space infrastructure is emerging, providing access to space on an unprecedented scale. This is being driven by continuously-reducing satellite launch costs, demonstrated through reusable launchers, and enabled by technology advances, mainly in computing and manufacturing.

With an annual turnover in 2018 of $360bn and a predicted CAGR of 6–8%1 the global space industry will expand existing business in satellite-based communication, navigation, Earth observation and monitoring services, enabling expansion of Earth-based business and industries. In parallel, new opportunities related to space tourism and space mining will be explored. The number of satellites expected to be launched towards 2030 could reach 10,000, five times the number of active satellites in orbit today. Most of the new satellites relate to constellations to be used for Internet access.

Launch cost per kilogram to LEO versus maximum payload
Risky space

With the expected increase in space activities, new international and national regulations, together with private assurance, are expected to address risks related to human life, asset values and sustainable operations. Although advanced technology fuels the new space race and has enabled recent progress, mission failures can easily cost hundreds of millions of dollars2 and can set schedules back for years. With an increase in space activities, space debris will become an ever-larger threat to LEO satellites and their safe operation, and the radio spectrum for wireless communication will become increasingly congested. Both challenges require a coordinated approach from governments and business.

Impact on society

Deploying a space-based global communication infrastructure will give broadband internet coverage to many people and communities for the first time. An improved global monitoring of natural phenomena, including climate change, will advance the effective management of our global resources. Additionally, scientific and technological advances will broadly inspire the public. However, the lack of uniform governance could lead to unsafe practices and also to unequal access to spacebased resources, possibly widening inequality.

Technology Outlook 2030 report cover
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