September 15, 2021


Key takeaways

  • The commercialization of space travel creates a host of new growth opportunities for businesses.
  • The global space industry could generate revenue of $1 trillion or more by 2040.
  • The growth in space travel is leading to calls from private and public sector leaders to create regulations around etiquette and future settlement in space.

Private sector business leaders have transformed what was once merely a dream of travel among the stars into a multibillion dollar industry--forming private aerospace companies, launching rockets and satellites, and even creating opportunities for space travel.

Coupled with the decreasing cost of access to low-Earth orbit, this growth in space commerce is enabling new opportunities for business innovation, from manufacturing, to technological advancements, to potential new markets. It is also creating new job opportunities and strengthening our commercial ties with international partners both public and private. There are new opportunities for commercial space travel and private aerospace too.

Below is a guide to what businesses need to know about the current state of space exploration and business, including a primer on the Artemis program, the impact of space travel on the economy, and the regulatory landscape around the private aerospace industry.

The Artemis program

Built on the Apollo program that put the first man on the moon in 1969, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is making strides to send the first woman and first person of color, among others, to the lunar surface with the Artemis program.

Among the ambitious goals of this international collaboration is to safely land on the moon’s south pole, an area that has been completely unexplored by humans. Once there, the team will use technological innovations and specialized spacesuits to explore the moon more thoroughly than the previous landing. Things astronauts will search for include signs of water and instances where humans could live or work on the moon. According to NASA, industry experts, astronauts, and scientists see the moon as a test site, using the findings and techniques to inform a potential future journey to Mars.

The team of scientists and astronauts behind the Artemis program are partnering with commercial businesses, government agencies, and other international organizations for the mission. Businesses and contractors will be tasked with developing critical technologies to make the moon landing safe, informational, and beneficial to all parties involved. This need for technology will create additional jobs and provide businesses with growth opportunities.

Space exploration’s impact on the global economy

As humans venture to the moon and beyond with the Artemis program, businesses will have more revenue opportunities. It is estimated that the global space industry could generate revenue of $1 trillion or more by 2040. It also has the ability to bring nations together through the creation of new shared markets.

Already, business leaders and investors have created new private aerospace companies, paving the way for the commercialization of space exploration. Many of these entrepreneurs’ intentions are to secure spaceflight for not only astronauts but also ordinary people to visit (and possibly live) in space. If successful, such space travel will open up opportunities for businesses to provide future space tourists a variety of space-related goods and services.

Relatedly, another area of economic growth is in the space-for-Earth market, which centers on goods or services that are created in space for human use on Earth. These projects include furthering the internet, satellite, observatory, and telecommunication capabilities on Earth from the unique perspective of space exploration. Space-for-Earth is seen as a profitable and growing new market that can contribute to the growth of businesses.

How smart regulation can support innovation

The volume of countries and businesses with space programs and aeronautical capabilities has led to a call from industry experts to create regulations for space travel. This includes proper space etiquette and outlining expectations for those seeking future settlement in space.

The United Nations set initial space regulation standards in 1967 with the signing of the “Outer Space Treaty,” more formally known as the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. The treaty outlines that each nation is responsible for its own citizens who venture into space. The United States, for example, is responsible for not only the humans it sends into space but also the satellites. Estimates from the Satellite Industry Association predict as many as 110,000 new satellites will be sent into orbit by 2030.

The business community is partnering closely with the government agencies tasked with establishing regulations that set the “rules of the road” for these new ventures in space. Space Policy Directives 2 and 3, for example, institute standards for Space Situational Awareness and Space Traffic Management. They also draw on NOAA’s tools and resources to create a new open architecture data repository that allows SSA and STM data to be shared internationally, ensuring that companies doing business in space can avoid costly and dangerous collisions.

The Artemis Accords, signed in 2020 by the U.S. and international partners, outlines another important framework for guiding future space exploration. Using the Outer Space Treaty, the Registration Convention, and the Agreement On The Rescue of Astronauts, industry experts outlined a multilateral partnership based on shared principles and values. These agreements provide specific guidelines on emergency assistance, registration of space objects, protecting space resources, and interoperability.

The monumental task of regulating entities venturing into space travel and exploration will continue to necessitate both the private and public sectors working together. The U.S. Chamber is front-and-center in this effort, actively working with government on behalf of business to shape and inform the regulatory process in a way that ensures businesses will thrive and remain competitive in this emerging sector. Through this advocacy and through additional public-private partnerships, we ensure that the future growth of the space industry for economies around the world remains truly limitless.