A Trillion-dollar Discussion

Money is flooding into startups thanks to visions of a future trillion-dollar space economy. How realistic is that target and what will it take to achieve it? Carissa Christensen, founder and CEO of Bryce Space and Technology, and Christian Davenport of the Washington Post delved into those questions during a June 23 webinar for the ASCENDxSeries, a collection of online events leading up to the ASCEND conference.

Webinar Executive Summary

The most important point from the discussion is that we should think of the term “space economy” as a temporary definition that we might use for a decade or so. Today, the term refers to companies that rely on on-orbit or in-space capabilities to deliver products on Earth-like satellite television and positioning, navigation and timing. Eventually, it will become clear that all industries are supported directly or indirectly by space activities. When that happens, the definition of the “space economy” will evolve. For comparison, we do include the value of all goods transported by sea in an accounting of an “ocean economy.”

Here are five key takeaways from the conversation:

  1. Watch for the human spaceflight market to thrive in the 2020s.
    Demand clearly exists and supply is on the way from NASA’s commercial crew partners – SpaceX and Boeing. Virgin Galactic is on the verge of offering suborbital flights and Blue Origin isn’t far behind.
  2. We’re still waiting for the business case for satellite broadband to close.
    SpaceX, Amazon and others are creating low Earth orbit internet constellations. Their challenge will be to offer products valuable enough to command a premium over terrestrial service or affordable enough for people without internet access.
  3. Startups are likely to struggle more with markets than technology.
    Space companies tend to overcome daunting technological hurdles. Lining up paying customers remains a bigger challenge.
  4. Don’t hold your breath waiting for asteroid miners to strike it rich.
    It is very expensive to fly to an asteroid and collect water or minerals to sell in space or on Earth. If that is your goal, find incremental sources of revenue to keep the lights on while you pursue the moon shot.
  5. Small rockets will find a niche in commercial markets.
    Government customers seeking rides for military and scientific satellites will remain the primary customers for the dozens of companies developing small launch vehicles, but replenishment of LEO constellations offers a purely commercial market option.

Participants were given the option to participate in one of four collaborative workshops – Commercial LEO, Lunar Economy, Satellites and Services, and Space Exploration and Longshots. The goal was to gather community input on what are the next $100B markets in space. What do you think? Join the conversation and share your thoughts.

To continue this conversation, join your colleagues and peers at this November at ASCEND, the outcomes-focused, transdisciplinary conference to accelerate the off-world future. Through the virtual event, we invite you to connect, debate and help shape the future space economy.

REGISTER FOR ASCEND

Webinar Recording

Panelist Detail

Following the Webinar, attendees participated in four interactive workshops to engage in a dynamic discussion about the space economy and its growth drivers across sectors. Convened under Chatham house rules, this collaboration was designed to provide actionable insights for business leaders and policymakers.

Commercial LEO
Moderator: Eric Stallmer, President, Commercial Spaceflight Federation

Lunar Economy
Moderator: Joe Landon, VP, Advanced Programs Development, Lockheed Martin

Satellites and Services
Moderator: Tom Stroup, President, Satellite Industry Association

Space Exploration and Longshots
Moderator: Aschley Schiller, Senior Program Manager, Bryce Space and Technology

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You’re Invited to a New Online Series

Live panel discussions and collab sessions are part of a new series of online events powered by ASCEND. In future sessions like this, ASCEND will give you the chance to:

  • See the impact of new research across government, civil, and commercial
  • Hear how domestic and foreign policies are affecting the space economy
  • Build new partnerships that can help you achieve your business goals

Sign up to learn more:

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Jaclyn Vann

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