Historically, accessing space was an expensive endeavor dominated by a few countries. Now, new technologies and private companies are upending the economics of rocket launches, and democratizing access like never before. As a result, companies now have the ability to launch satellites and acquire new capabilities from tracking of shipments to precision farming and predicting retail sales and more.
Bolstered by this success, private space companies and national space agencies are teaming up to achieve even more ambitious plans. For instance, some are pursuing space-based manufacturing, while others are assessing the viability of asteroid mining, which could mitigate the depletion of natural resources on Earth. There are also efforts underway to make humanity a multi-planetary species, and enable space tourism.
Despite the pandemic, investment in the space sector and public-private partnerships continues to gather momentum, but what does this mean for your industry and how might it impact your business?
In a time where customers are demanding more transparency, geospatial data showing ethical and sustainable sourcing of raw materials for products could bolster company reputation and trust. Similarly, satellites can now monitor the health of physical infrastructure such as gas pipelines; identify mineral deposits; and track deforestation and carbon emissions. These new sources of data can help companies fine-tune their strategies, improve efficiency and track their carbon footprint more reliably. Moreover, as a growing number of satellite internet constellations are launched, they will provide companies access to billions of new customers.
Looking further out, microgravity labs, space tourism, asteroid mining and the colonization of other worlds will open new opportunities for sectors ranging from pharmaceuticals to hospitality as well as advertising to retail and more.
However, entering this new space age will require overcoming significant challenges. Besides the technological and biological limitations of deep space travel, there are more near-term risks. With millions of debris objects in space and the increase in satellite launches, any accident could trigger a cascade of collisions, making space prohibitively hazardous and halting exploration for decades. In addition, high-resolution satellites planned for earth observation and imagery will be powerful enough to see the detail of a person’s face from space.
We will have to reimagine the norms, laws and institutions that will be needed to enable the sustainable, responsible and ethical use of space. Global rules and governance will be needed to address not just issues of privacy but also jurisdiction and ownership of commercial human settlements and harvesting of resources in space.