5 mins
June 21, 2024

Space: The Next Trillion Dollar Industry

Launching into the good, the bad, and the ugly

Every year, from October 4th to October 10th, over 95 countries observe “World Space Week” - an opportunity for education and outreach about Space, science, and technology. Events can include school activities, exhibitions, government events, and more. Each year, a unique theme is chosen - this year, it’s “Space and Sustainability”. 

Why should you care?

Space exploration can seem so far away and disconnected from our lives here on Earth, but in fact, human space exploration helps to answer important questions about our history and place in the universe and solar system. Our expansion into space research has also allowed us to expand our knowledge about technology, build new industries, revolutionise how we communicate and connect with the world around us, and improve international relations. Beyond the lofty sci-fi-esque goals of terraforming planets or finding extraterrestrial life, there are also immediate scientific benefits to space research, such as providing the perfect environment to prove or disprove scientific theories, and testing materials, among others.

Money Talks

If that wasn’t evidence enough of the importance of this sector, the money backs it up, too. The space industry grew at its fastest pace in years to reach a record $469 billion in annual global spending in 2021, and is showing no signs of slowing down. According to Citigroup, the industry could reach up to $1 trillion in annual revenue by 2040.

The Challenge

However, all of this good stuff does come with its own challenges. We’ve come a long way since our first telescopic observations of space all the way back in 1610, and the first rockets to enter the exosphere in 1956 - today, thousands of satellites have been successfully launched into Earth’s orbit. In addition, the SSN, or the US Department of Defense’s global Space Surveillance Network, recently published a report stating that there are over 27,000 pieces of “space junk” revolving around our home planet. While space itself is huge, Low Earth Orbit or LEO (which hosts most of the artificial objects) is limited.

This is problematic as it may eventually prevent new satellites being launched - an issue that may end up causing international tensions as nations fight over the remaining space (pun not intended). There are fears that collisions within the LEO could potentially lead to catastrophic chain reactions. In fact, even today, this overcrowding is already causing issues and getting in the way of Space Missions. 

So, what can be done?

With these concerns around sustainability becoming more prominent, organisations such as the Secure World Foundation, or SWF, are strongly pushing for more efforts to be directed towards addressing these fears to enable continued space activity and research, for the benefit of the Earth and all its people. Voluntary agreements have been drafted to limit companies’ adverse impacts, as well as international codes of conduct, and proposals for transparency and longer term sustainability plans. These initiatives aren’t limited to private companies, however - the threats regarding the lack of space sustainability are being recognised even at governmental levels. To tackle this growing problem, international cooperation and response is essential, and it looks like people are pretty willing to get on board, recognising the universal benefits that will come of a cleaner (and longer term) access to space for years to come.

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