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The New Space Economy: Trends Driving Growth

A vast new space economy valued at over $420 billion is taking flight, fueled by falling launch costs, innovative manufacturing techniques, and ambitiously funded startups aiming beyond Earth for opportunity.

As national space agencies face budget limitations, the commercial space sector has stepped up to meet demand. The recent influx stems from billionaire-backed ventures combined with more affordable access to orbit spurring a wave of new business plans. On the horizon are space tours for wealthy adventure seekers, global high-speed satellite internet, mining for lunar resources, microgravity research, and even settlements on Mars.

By the Numbers: The Expanding Space Industry

Space industry growth to $1 trillion

$420 billion – Current global space economy size

7% – 5-year average industry growth

$1 trillion – Predicted value by 2040

77 – Number of government space agencies

$85.9 billion – Total global space industry investment in 2021

As seen above, Morgan Stanley predicts the space industry will top $1 trillion before the end of this decade based on increasing commercialization enabled by falling launch costs.

Key Market Drivers Expanding Commercial Access

Falling rocket launch costs

1. Declining Launch Prices

Reusable rockets perfected by SpaceX have dramatically lowered the price to orbit over the past decade. Their partially reusable Falcon 9 rockets cost $2,720 per kg versus $54,500 per kg for expendable competitors. Future prototypes like SpaceX Starship aim over 100x reductions further expanding what‘s economically feasible in space.

2. Small Satellite Broadband

Thousands of new high-throughput satellites from SpaceX‘s Starlink, Amazon‘s Project Kuiper and other proposed networks are connecting remote regions with high-speed low-latency broadband. The small satellite market including CubeSats for research is also booming with dedicated launchers like Rocket Lab enabling wider access.

3. Space Tourism

Suborbital up to orbital space trips for private citizens and researchers are becoming reality. Companies like Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, and SpaceX have flown civilian crews in history-making safe launches with plans to scale up. As more experience suborbital trips, space hotels and settlements could follow.

4. Asteroid Mining Ventures

Tapping into extraterrestrial resources from asteroid water to precious metals promises great economic prospects once costs drop low enough. Companies like Planetary Resources have already started planning missions.

These technology trends combined with cheaper access to space have led to an explosion of startups. Now entrepreneurs world-wide can reasonably pursue ideas like microgravity 3D printing, space advertisement billboards, structures assembled by robots, and even micro-nation colonies in space.

Private companies both emerging and established now pull the weight nationally while still partnering closely with agencies like NASA who provide mission direction, contracts, funding and infrastructure projects. The line between public and private space endeavors grows blurrier by the day.

The origins of private space industry trace back to the early days of aviation when government agencies like NASA didn‘t even exist. Many companies now leading space efforts have long legacies contributing engineering expertise through wars and previous government space projects.

SpaceX NASA ISS Mission

The SpaceX Crew Dragon pictured docking with the ISS is an example of public-private partnership today with NASA directing goals while private rockets accomplish missions. NASA relies on contractors for building rockets, capsules, landers, satellites and space station components required to pursue their research and exploration objectives.

Blending commercial innovation with nationally-directed purpose coordinates progress most effectively. Ambitious companies guide cutting edge developments in reusable rockets, extraterrestrial infrastructure, space-based solar power, while space agencies supply mission-control experience, astronauts, sustaining projects like the International Space Station (ISS), and steady government contracts to fund growth.

Government Incentives Accelerate Investment

In America specifically, favorable tax incentives encourage private investment capital to flow into the space sector. Businesses can deduct up to 100% of qualifying space investments off their taxable incomes. Startups also benefit from R&D tax credits offsetting risk of innovative tech development. Asteroid mining is even incentivized by allowing private citizens or companies to keep resources extracted from celestial objects outside governmental jurisdiction.

Forward-looking legislation combined with strong public-private partnership primes enormous opportunity. As launch prices fall low enough for profitability, America wisely enacted laws so anyone can pursue space endeavors for the benefit of humanity while still reaping returns worthy of investment risk. This free market environment stimulates progress rapidly.

Enough overview of the landscape fueling this booming industry. Now let‘s analyze the ambitious companies and billionaire-genius leaders driving this new space age.

The top 10 corporations accelerating humanity‘s reach beyond this planet fall into two camps – the legacy aerospace giants who‘ve supported space efforts for decades and nimble, well-funded startups leveraging new technologies to disrupt incumbents.

Spaceship company owners
The Billionaires Bankrolling Their Own Space Companies

Launch Startups – Founded After 2005

SpaceX Dragon Capsule

1. SpaceX

Founder: Elon Musk

Founded: 2002

Location: Hawthorne, California

Valuation: $127 Billion

Dwarfing all other new competitors, SpaceX sends more rockets into orbit annually than any entity public or private. After making history with the world‘s only privately funded liquid-fueled orbital rocket and first reuse of orbital-class booster, the company now leverages reusability to enable astronomy missions, resupplyISS, launch national security payloads, and build satellite mega-constellations like Starlink.

But Founder Elon Musk keeps his eyes on the ultimate prize – making humanity multi-planetary via his towering next-generation Starship rocket. This fully reusable stainless steel beast aims to deliver over 100 metric tons to Mars for less than $10 million per launch, unlocking affordable access to the Moon and Mars for permanent settlements.

SpaceX will also offer the first commercial space tourism mission in partnership with Axiom to the ISS by 2023. The prolific company continues to out-launch, out-innovate and out-build all global competitors while attracting top talent and capital.

2. Blue Origin

Founder: Jeff Bezos

Founded: 2000

Headquarters: Kent, Washington

Valuation: $27.5 Billion

Founded three years before SpaceX, the private space venture of Amazon‘s Jeff Bezos took a bit longer to hit stride but now accelerates full throttle. While they lost out on NASA‘s high-profile Moon lander contract, Blue Origin continues aggressively developing their reusable New Shepard rocket for space tourism along with New Glenn for satellite launch contracts.

Blue Origin also partners with industry leaders like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper on lunar lander concepts. Ongoing projects aim to improve supply chain space infrastructure from rockets to space stations to lunar habitats.

Blue Origin New Shepard Launch

Bezos believes millions of people working and living in space is key to preserving Earth while innovating exponentially. He invests $1 billion annually out of pocket driving rapid progress.

3. Relativity Space

Founder: Tim Ellis

Founded: 2015

Headquarters: Los Angeles, CA

Valuation: $4.2 Billion

Relativity disrupted traditional aerospace manufacturing by leveraging 3D metal printing for an end-to-end autonomous factory building rockets on Mars colony principles. By minimizing supply chains and customizing easily, they can configure payload-optimized rockets in days rather than years.

Already Relativity achieved the first private venture-backed orbital launch in 2022. They now scale Terran 1 services for small satellite customers while building out the massive fully reusable Terran R. Terran R aims to outlift incumbents like SpaceX Falcon 9 at lower cost by 2025, delivering a whopping 15,000 kg to Mars. Relativity continues dominant fundraising and uptake amongst newer startups.

4. Astra Space

Founder: Chris Kemp

Founded: 2016

Headquarters: San Fransico, CA

Valuation: $2.1 billion

A scrappy self-funded rocket startup aiming to provide dedicated small satellite launches, Astra built history‘s quickest orbital rocket in just 5 years. After early failed attempts reaching orbit by 2021, they now plan weekly launches by 2025 for both private sector and defense/intelligence clients like DARPA.

To accelerate iterative design, Astra emphasizes flight data and modeling with daily simulated launches. Partners like NASA offer research grants for developing more environmentally friendly propellant. Founder Chris Kemp eyes slashing space infrastructure costs long-term by ultimately 3D printing rockets on-demand from raw materials for faster turnaround.

Legacy Aerospace – Founded Before 1980

ULA Atlas V Rocket

5. Boeing

Founded: 1916

Headquarters: Chicago, IL

Market Cap: $102 Billion

Aviation pioneers since 1916, Boeing contributes vast space achievements from Saturn V to the Space Shuttle and ISS. Today they‘re contracted by NASA to build the SLS core stage, Starliner crew capsule, and forthcoming Lunar Gateway station. The United Launch Alliance joint venture also supplies critical launches for government and commercial satellites.

Future proposed concepts range from commercial space stations to points-to-point hypersonic rocket travel to Mars. Boeing will continue relying on trusted engineering and manufacturing infrastructure while innovating on reusability and sustainability.

6. Northrop Grumman

Innovation Systems

Founded: 1994

Headquarters: Dulles, VA

Market Cap: $68 Billion

Formed from the 1994 merger of Northrop Aircraft and Grumman, the firm carries almost a century of defense aerospace experience. In addition to stealth bombers and fighter jets, Grumman notably engineered the Lunar Excursion Module for Apollo moon landings.

Today their Space Systems sector focuses on NASA science missions and national security launches via solid rocket boosters, satellite servicing tech, and the cutting-edge James Webb Space Telescope. They also propose commercial space stations for microgravity research, space tourism, and lunar operations.

7. Lockheed Martin

Founded: 1995

Headquarters: Bethesda, MD

Market Cap: $114 Billion

The 1995 merger of Lockheed and Martin Marietta formed an aerospace and arms mammoth. Dating back to the 1920‘s Lockheed itself produced numerous pioneering aircraft designs over the decades including transport used by Amelia Earhart.

Ongoing 21st century space contributions range from NASA‘s Orion deep space capsule to launch vehicles to proposals for Mars base modules and landing crew on the Moon before China. Recently Lockheed also partners with Amazon‘s Project Kuiper internet satellite constellation effort.

8. Sierra Nevada Corporation

Founded: 1963

Headquarters: Sparks, NV

Revenue: $2 Billion

A lower-key but essential space utility supplier and integrator for 60 years now. Sierra Nevada modified various surveillance aircraft and grew CRITICAL space communications infrastructure. They built hybrid rockets for Virgin Galactic‘s SpaceShipTwo and currently also partner with Blue Origin.

Now Sierra Nevada vies to supply NASA logistics modules for the Lunar Gateway orbital station. Founder Fatih Ozmen ultimately seeks to utilize space-based infrastructure for solving sustainability challenges on Earth.

The Future of Space

Blue Origin space colony
Blue Origin‘s Concept for Rotating Orbital Space Colonies Holding Over 1 Million Residents

The boundary-pushing achievements from these key players only mark the beginning of expanding Earth‘s economic sphere beyond our atmosphere.

As costs drop exponentially with reusable rockets and mass manufacturing, asteroid mining and space-based solar become cost-effective. Moon and Mars settlements for growing research colonies get built out organically by private companies while tourism opens up. Expect experimental governments, NORAD-like space defense agencies, and eventually self-sustaining colonies.

Interplanetary species survival via backup populations also becomes viable as travel times reduce. And by preserving Earth‘s environment along the way as these space entrepreneurs advocate, exciting centuries ahead await.

Billionaires fight to be first today, but with increasingly affordable spacelift infrastructure in place, ordinary people can pursue space opportunities sooner than expected. That blue origin future no longer just lives in visions of science fiction. If companies achieve their bold claims in the years ahead, space truly lies open for all humanity – there‘s room aplenty in the cosmos!