Space is no longer the sole domain of governments and aerospace and defense companies. Businesses that pursue emerging opportunities now may gain a first-mover advantage.
Today, few people understand that the space economy—broadly defined as activities in orbit or on other planets that benefit human beings—could soon transform how they live and work.
Some hints of the coming changes are apparent, including the frequent headlines about SpaceX, Blue Origin, and other private companies launching their own rockets and deploying satellite constellations. These activities, once primarily the domain of government agencies, are now possible in the private sector because recent technological advances in manufacturing, propulsion, and launch have made it much easier and less expensive to venture into space and conduct missions. Lower costs have opened the door to new start-ups and encouraged established aerospace companies to explore novel opportunities that once seemed too expensive or difficult. The technological improvements have also intrigued investors, resulting in a surge of space funding over the past five years.
The potential for innovative space applications is immense, especially if established aerospace companies form partnerships with businesses that traditionally haven’t ventured into orbit. Pharmaceutical companies might establish a lab on a space station to study cell growth, for instance, or semiconductor companies might manufacture chips in extraterrestrial factories to determine whether any aspects of the space environment, such as the lack of gravity, improve the process. Such possibilities, which might have seemed like the stuff of science fiction a few years ago, could become an essential part of a business across multiple industries in the near future.
But how and when should companies take advantage of their greater access to space and pursue emerging use cases? And how can they decide what opportunities are most promising when the technology is so nascent? Although much remains uncertain, companies that begin exploring these questions now could gain a long-term advantage.