The space economy is booming. What benefits can it bring to Earth? – The European Sting – Critical News & Insights on European Politics, Economy, Foreign Affairs, Business & Technology

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This article is brought to you thanks to The European Sting’s collaboration with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Stefan Ellerbeck, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • The space economy is worth at least $469 billion, according to a new report.
  • The term “space economy” includes the goods and services produced in space for use in space.
  • Digital infrastructure in the air has brought benefits to many industries and is helping in the fight against climate change.
  • However, there are concerns about the amount of space debris in Earth orbit, which NASA says currently totals 9,000 tons.

The space race began as a competition between two superpowers, but now 90 nations operate in space.

Another change since man first landed on the moon in 1969 is that lower costs mean it’s not just governments that can afford to put rockets and satellites into the sky. A multitude of private sector companies are now investing in space programs, seeking everything from scientific advances to potentially lucrative business opportunities.

It is estimated that more than 10,000 companies and around 5,000 investors are currently active in the space industry.

The space economy is booming

According to Harvard Business Review, the term “space economy” includes “the goods and services produced in space for use in space, such as B. to mine the moon or asteroids for material”. The OECD defines it as any activity involving “exploration, exploration, understanding, stewardship and exploitation of outer space”.

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The Space Foundation’s 2022 Space Report estimates that the space economy was worth $469 billion in 2021 — a 9% increase from the previous year. And over 1,000 spacecraft were put into orbit in the first six months of this year, the report says — more than in the first 52 years of space exploration (1957-2009).

But the space sector is not just a growth sector in itself – it is also proving to be a key enabler of growth and efficiency in other sectors. The European Space Agency says the deployment of new space infrastructure has benefited industries such as meteorology, energy, telecoms, insurance, transport, maritime, aviation and urban development.

Most of that money came from the private sector rather than the public sector, according to the report, which estimates more than $224 billion was generated from products and services by space companies.

There has also been a surge in government-backed investment in space projects around the world, according to the Space Foundation report. Over the past year, total government spending on military and civilian space programs increased by 19%. India increased spending by 36%, China invested 23% more and the US pumped another 18% into space companies.

Innovation drives the space economy

What is happening today has been dubbed the “space renaissance” – a time when technological innovations significantly reduce costs and create new opportunities.

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Planet Labs CEO Will Marshall said at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos in May that rocket prices have fallen four-fold over the past decade. Companies that once had to pay potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars to get a satellite into space can now do so for a fraction of that as cheaper components have become available.

Marshall says this means we’re now producing 10 times more Earth imagery per area than we were five years ago, and that 10 times the bandwidth of communications is being transmitted around the planet.

He also says better imaging increases accountability. For example, commercial satellite data provides a bird’s eye view of the conflict in Ukraine and allows the world to monitor and record events on the ground as they occur.

Satellite imagery can also allow farmers to monitor crops, companies to track their environmental, social and governance performance, and governments to monitor carbon emissions, Marshall says.

Discover

How is the World Economic Forum promoting a sustainable and inclusive digital economy?

The World Economic Forum for Shaping the Future of Digital Economy and New Value Creation platform helps companies and governments use technology to develop digitally-driven business models that ensure growth and equity for an inclusive and sustainable economy.

  • The Digital Transformation for Long-Term Growth program brings together industry leaders, innovators, experts and policymakers to accelerate new digital business models that create the sustainable and resilient industries of tomorrow.
  • The Forum’s EDISON Alliance mobilizes leaders from all sectors to accelerate digital inclusion. Its 1 Billion Lives Challenge leverages cross-industry commitments and actions to improve people’s lives through affordable access to digital solutions in education, healthcare and financial services by 2025.
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Contact us for more information on how to get involved.

Solve the problem of wasting space

However, the nearly 9,000 tons of equipment that has flown into space creates problems of its own. According to NASA, more than 100 million pieces of space junk a millimeter or larger orbit the Earth.

This debris may include non-functional spacecraft, abandoned equipment, and mission-related debris. At speeds of up to 17,500 miles per hour (28,160 kilometers per hour), even a tiny piece of debris can damage a satellite or spacecraft.

NASA says that an average of one piece of debris has fallen back to Earth every day for the past 50 years. However, these mostly end up in oceans or uninhabited regions, and no serious human injuries or significant property damage have even been confirmed.

The World Economic Forum’s Space Sustainability Rating (SSR) aims to encourage responsible behavior in space by increasing transparency of the organization’s debris reduction efforts. The SSR provides a score that represents a mission’s sustainability in terms of debris mitigation and alignment with international guidelines.



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