Dec 02, 2019 - 9:00am

Commercial Space is Taking Off


Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

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U.S. Chamber CEO Tom Donohue speaks at the 2nd Annual Space Summit, LAUNCH: The Space Economy.
U.S. Chamber CEO Tom Donohue speaks at the 2nd Annual Space Summit, LAUNCH: The Space Economy.

Today, every company is, or very soon will be, a space company.

Whether we realize it or not, space-based technology impacts everyday life—from the GPS we use to find our way home to the satellite-transmitted data we depend on for almost all forms of modern communication. Businesses, too, are leveraging this technology to expand R&D, streamline operations, and stake their claim in the new economic frontier.

Leading corporations and billionaire entrepreneurs are assembling the world’s best and brightest to make space tourism a reality. Pharmaceutical and agriculture companies, meanwhile, are conducting experiments in low-Earth orbit to evaluate the potential advantages of microgravity in growing crops and developing new drug treatments. Even retailers have joined the commercial space race, with companies like Target funding research on the International Space Station to produce more sustainable forms of cotton.

Need further evidence that the private space industry is taking off? Today, there are less than 2,000 active satellites in orbit. But last year alone, the FCC licensed over 13,000 satellites for operations in low-Earth orbit. Space is the most promising industry to arise since the birth of the tech sector, and companies large and small want a piece of the action. In the coming years, growth will continue to skyrocket: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce projects that commercial space will be at least a $1.5 trillion industry by 2040. 

We are in the early stages of an economic revolution that could redefine the limits of humankind. Space isn’t an empty void but a landscape of endless possibility. The minerals and energy resources that are scarce here on Earth are everywhere in our solar system. Lunar colonies, asteroid mining, and interplanetary travel—once the stuff of science-fiction—could very soon become a reality. But for that to happen, we need sensible public policies that will foster the innovation, investment, and growth necessary for continued commercial expansion into space.

That’s where the U.S. Chamber comes in. We are working with all private- and public-sector stakeholders to chart the course toward a mature commercial space regulatory regime. To that end, on Tuesday, December 3, we are hosting LAUNCH: The Space Economy, our second annual summit dedicated entirely to commercial space. The summit will bring together hundreds of business leaders and government officials who are building the regulatory framework for a national space policy that includes private sector collaboration.

The future of our economy depends on the vigorous pursuit of industry beyond Earth. And with the right combination of private investment and public policy, our potential for growth—like space itself—has no limits.

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About the Author

About the Author

Thomas J. Donohue
Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Thomas J. Donohue is chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.