The concept of space, going to space, living in space have been swirling around the minds of ever-curious human beings for a long time. Back in the ’50s, space exploration was fueled by the Cold War with the national space agencies of each country trying to outdo the other. Gradually, space for commercial use opened up with the advent of a cable network, internet, and telecommunications. However, getting to space remained within the hands of national space agencies of a select few countries. The involvement of the private sector, in this case, was largely nonexistent owing to the massive capital and risks involved and limited opportunities in terms of returns.
That all changed when SpaceX, a private enterprise, entered the arena with a radical but game-changing new idea of safely landing and reusing rockets that were previously unusable. This provided the opportunity to significantly reduce costs and get much higher returns on space launches. Driven and fueled by the successes of private companies, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the US has authorized 31 licenses in 2019. Along with orbital spaceflight, these licenses include space tourism, supply and passenger delivery, space exploration and more. The private space companies have the incentive to minimize costs, be ambitious and revolutionary. Be it SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Rocket that reached asteroid belt or Blue Origin’s reusable New Shepard, this industry is bubbling with expectations and possibilities that will pave the way of a new space race.
The Burgeoning Generation Of Space Age
Those days are long gone when the US and Russia used to be the only two players of space. Joining the rally are India, Israel, China, private companies, startups and enthusiastic students. In retrospect, space business was risky, unprofitable and complex. But now the demands are high, the market is growing and overall lucrative.
According to Bryce Space and Technology, the global space economy is worth $360 billion and only $80.7 billion belongs to the government. This makes the space business a field of the private sector. The new opportunities are not confined to just low Earth zone and moon, Mars is also in reach and could potentially be colonized by humanity. However, that reality is far as companies need to first gather expertise in relatively easier sectors of space. The low Earth orbit has also become the playground for commercialization.
The notion of space business is forming a community and this community will be the consumer of the space products. Even the list of these products is becoming larger-space hotels, transportation systems, man-tended laboratories, in-space manufacturing, energy harvesting, asteroid mining, fueling depots, Earth imagery, small satellite constellation-based internet services, etc. When the community will reach there they will need many of the services provided on Earth as well as new and unique services currently unavailable. Meeting many of these services, innovating, and generating the resources needed will be a business many tech companies will find lucrative here on Earth.
Commercialization Of Space
In recent decades, private space companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, Moon Express, etc. have engraved their names through their accomplishments in this field. Advancements in computers, robotics, pieces of machinery, physics have enriched the space sector greatly. Behind these developments lie the vision and enthusiasm of the companies. For example, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has stated his dream of colonizing and dying on Mars. On the other hand, Blue Origin CEO Jeff Bezos said he wanted to “build space hotels, amusement parks and colonies for 2 million or 3 million people who would be in orbit.”
SpaceX has never failed to amaze people through its accomplishments. After the success of Falcon Heavy, the rocket company has set its sight on the moon. They are planning a new vehicle Starship that will carry 100 people to the moon, even Mars. Demand for it is not sitting idly either. A Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has reportedly booked all the tickets for this travel. For some technical reasons, the project has been delayed a few times and will probably show results in 2023.
Blue Origin is not sitting idly either. The space giant is working on a lander named Big Moon and it will carry science instruments, lunar rovers and astronauts to the moon. The project has piqued interest beyond the government, thus increasing its potential customers other than the government.
Virgin Galactic, established in 2004, is a company dedicated to space tourism. It has spent the better part of the recent decades testing viable spaceflight. The company is expected to conduct the first commercial space flight giving passengers an out of the world experience quite literally. Space tourism is also something that SpaceX and Blue Origin are working towards as it holds a lucrative market with demand from the extremely affluent all over the world.
Is Space The New Frontier For Businesses?
Commercialization of space has become a prerequisite for the success and accomplishment of the space sector. In the recent decade, hundreds of companies have been formed and most of them have not seen the face of profit. But the successes are visible. If the market is open, it will increase competition leading to more innovative ideas and executions. Moreover, space is the industry is bigger than ever and relying solely on the government will delay the advancements. After a few years, people will want to mine their assets on the moon, use the resources of the moon, etc. So, this business will be very lucrative and full of possibilities if commercialized.
There are indeed many uncertainties and risks in the space business. But that was the way for every groundbreaking business that was born. Humanity has challenged what was once deemed impossible and has come out successful. Private companies are leading the market, leaving behind government space agencies, the likes of veterans such as NASA and Roscosmos. It is not just about business or money, it is about humanity’s endless endeavor and crazy enthusiasm to know the unknown, achieve the impossible and leap into the new ocean of possibilities.
by Hussain Imam