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What is the Space Economy – A Guide 


What is the Space Economy – A Guide 

What is the Space Economy – A Guide 

Vantage Updated by Updated Wed, May 8 10:03

The space race officially began when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite in 1957.  

The United States responded with the Apollo program, aiming to land astronauts on the moon. They successfully achieved this goal in 1969, effectively marking the U.S victory in the space race. 

Today, there are 90 nations are operating in space [1]

While the space race of the mid-20th century was primarily about national prestige and scientific achievement, today’s exploration of space extends far beyond flags and footprints on the moon. 

The space economy has emerged as a dynamic and multi-faceted arena, where nations collaborate, private companies innovate, and cutting-edge technologies intersect. 

In this article, we will be taking you through all you need to know about the space economy. 

What is the Space Economy 

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the space economy is defined as any activity that involves “exploring, researching, understanding, managing, and utilising space”. 

As of 2021, the global space economy is estimated to be worth $469 billion, a 9% increase from 2020 [2]

This value reflects the many activities related to space, including satellite services, communication, Earth observation and scientific research. 

Experts predict that the space industry could reach $1 trillion within the next two decades and even rise up to $3 trillion by 2050 [3]

In this rapidly expanding universe of the space economy, several key players such as SpaceX, Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin have emerged and contributed to the exploration beyond Earth. 

Read more about the 5 companies propelling the space economy here

Why is the Space Economy important? 

The space economy isn’t just for scientists and astronauts. It impacts nations worldwide, touching the lives of individuals and industries. 

Here are some areas that are impacted: 

  • Telecommunications – Even our most basic everyday interactions are a product of the space economy. Satellite communication has become an integral part of our daily lives, facilitating global connectivity for telecommunications, internet access, and broadcasting. 
  • Navigation – It is remarkable to consider how people navigated their surroundings before the aid of modern tools such as Google Maps or Waze. Precise satellite navigation systems like GPS not only guide us on our journeys but also underpin critical infrastructure, from transportation to agriculture. 
  • Scientific Research – Space exploration fosters groundbreaking scientific discoveries, from understanding the origins of the universe to developing new materials and medical treatments. 
  • National Security – Satellites provide vital intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities for national defence and security operations.  
  1. Pros of the Space Economy 
    • The space economy brings a plethora of benefits, driving progress and enriching society in numerous ways: 
      • Technological Innovation: Innovation is the lifeblood of the space industry, leading to breakthroughs in materials science, robotics, propulsion systems, and more, which often find applications in terrestrial technologies. 
      • Job Creation: The space economy generates employment opportunities across various sectors, from engineers and scientists to technicians and administrative staff, fostering economic growth and prosperity. 
      • Scientific Discovery: Space exploration expands the boundaries of human knowledge, unveiling the mysteries of space and inspiring future generations to pursue careers in STEM fields. 
  2. Cons of the Space Economy  
    • Despite its promise, the space economy also poses challenges and risks that must be addressed:
      • Space Debris: The proliferation of space debris poses hazards to spacecraft and satellites in orbit, threatening both space exploration activities and Earth’s orbital environment. 
      • Geopolitical Tensions: Competition for space dominance can create geopolitical tensions between nations, leading to arms races, space weaponisation, and conflicts over lunar and planetary resources. 
      • Economic Inequality: Access to space technologies and opportunities is often limited to wealthy nations and corporations, exacerbating economic disparities and hindering the equitable distribution of space benefits. 

Industries in the Space Economy 

The space economy comprises several industries, each playing a role in unlocking the potential of space exploration and utilisation. 

  1. Satellite Industry 
    1. At the heart of the space economy lies the satellite industry, which encompasses a diverse array of satellites serving various purposes. 
      • Communication Satellites: These satellites facilitate global telecommunications, enabling voice calls, internet connectivity, and broadcasting services to reach even the most remote corners of the planet.
      • Earth Observation Satellites: Earth observation satellites provide invaluable data for monitoring the Earth’s surface, atmosphere, and oceans, supporting applications such as weather forecasting, environmental monitoring, and disaster response. 
      • Navigation Satellites: Navigation satellite constellations like GPS, Galileo, and GLONASS enable precise positioning, navigation, and timing services, underpinning a wide range of applications in transportation, agriculture, and defence. 
  2. Launch Services 
    1. Launching satellites and crewed missions into space requires advanced technology, infrastructure, and expertise, making the launch services segment a cornerstone of the space economy. 
      • Launch Providers: Companies like SpaceX, United Launch Alliance (ULA), and Arianespace offer launch services using a variety of rockets, including the Falcon series, Atlas V, and Ariane rockets, respectively. 
      • Technological Advancements: Recent advancements in launch technology, such as reusable rocket stages pioneered by SpaceX, have significantly reduced the cost of access to space and increased launch frequency, driving the growth of the commercial space industry. 

How has the Space Economy evolved? 

The evolution of the space economy has been marked by significant shifts, characterised by greater democratisation and increasing commercialisation. 

  1. Greater Democratisation 
    • Advancements in technology and changes in government policies have played a pivotal role in democratising access to space, empowering private companies and startups to participate in space activities. 
  2. Technological Advancements 
    • Breakthroughs in rocket technology, miniaturisation of satellites, and advancements in materials science have lowered the barriers to entry, enabling smaller companies to develop and launch their own spacecraft. 
  3. Government Policies 
    • Initiatives such as NASA’s Commercial Crew and Commercial Resupply Services programs, as well as regulatory reforms like the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, have fostered partnerships between government agencies and private industry, encouraging innovation and competition in the space sector. 
  4. Commercialisation 
    • The past decade has witnessed a notable shift towards commercial space activities, with companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic leading the charge in driving innovation and competition. 
    • With these developments, there is now much greater interest in the space economy. This signals a promising future for the space economy, characterised by a more diverse and dynamic landscape of participants and activities. With barriers to entry lowered and opportunities expanded, we can anticipate continued growth and innovation in space exploration and utilisation.  

Is the Space Economy gaining popularity? 

Historically, the space race of the mid-20th century sparked global fascination and excitement for space exploration as superpowers vied for supremacy beyond Earth’s atmosphere. 

However, following the Apollo missions and the end of the Cold War, public enthusiasm waned, and funding for space exploration dwindled amidst shifting geopolitical priorities. 

Fast forward to the present, we witness with a resurgence of interest and investment in the space economy. The global space economy reached $447 billion in 2020, marking a 4.4% increase from the revised 2019 total [4].  

This can be contributed to the influence of popular culture, media coverage, and high-profile space missions.  

Science fiction literature, movies, and television series have long captivated audiences with visions of futuristic space travel and alien worlds. Iconic franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek have created curiosity about the universe. 

Landmark achievements in planetary exploration, such as the Curiosity rover’s landing on Mars and the discovery of water on the moon, captivate audiences worldwide and underscore the significance of space exploration in expanding our understanding of the world beyond Earth and our place within it. 


From the historic space race to the present-day resurgence in interest and investment, humanity’s fascination with the cosmos has endured, driven by a collective desire to explore the unknown and unlock the mysteries of the universe. 

Whether you’re a scientist, an entrepreneur, or someone who is interested in investing in the space economy, there has never been a better time to get involved.  

As we embark on this transformative journey into the cosmos, the possibilities for exploration, discovery, and collaboration are limitless. 


  1. “The space economy is booming. What benefits can it bring to Earth? – World Economic Forum”. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/10/space-economy-industry-benefits/#:~:text=The%20space%20race%20began%20as,and%20satellites%20into%20the%20skies. Accessed 28 March 2024. 
  2. “SPACE FOUNDATION RELEASES THE SPACE REPORT 2022 Q2 SHOWING GROWTH OF GLOBAL SPACE ECONOMY – Space Foundation”. https://www.spacefoundation.org/2022/07/27/the-space-report-2022-q2/. Accessed 28 March 2024.
  3. “A Wakeup Call For 2024: What The Space Industry Needs To Consider For Ongoing Growth – Forbes”. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2023/11/30/a-wakeup-call-for-2024-what-the-space-industry-needs-to-consider-for-ongoing-growth/?sh=5d418cbb11cd. Accessed 28 March 2024.
  4. “Global Space Economy Rose to $447B in 2020, Continuing Five-Year Growth – Space Foundation”. https://www.spacefoundation.org/2021/07/15/global-space-economy-rose-to-447b-in-2020-continuing-five-year-growth/#fl-main-content. Accessed 28 March 2024.


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