Space 2040 | The Future of the Global Space Economy [English Version]
Space is an issue that conjures up the imagination like almost no other. But what will the global space economy look like in 2040? How much will it cost to access space? Will there be space manufacturing? Will humans have landed on Mars? Will space debris prevent access to orbit? And how can businesses benefit from the space sector?
This study, utilizing the Delphi method, predicts the condition of the space economy by 2040, focusing on six major domains: technologies, infrastructure, policy, ecology, exploration, and business models. A remarkable advancement is the emergence of fully reusable megalaunchers in the late 2020s, facilitating a diversification in the design, volume, and application of spacecraft. This development reduces launch costs significantly, broadening space accessibility to new participants, including enterprises previously uninvolved in space.
Furthermore, megalaunchers will enable spacecraft maintenance, repair, and refueling operations, extending their lifespan and aiding in space debris mitigation. Future spacecraft are projected to operate more autonomously due to the importance of AI, requiring less human intervention and making space more approachable.
The study also highlights the development of space infrastructure such as private space stations and manufacturing facilities in cislunar space. These advancements are made possible due to the increased accessibility of low earth orbit, leading to a migration of some ground-based computing infrastructure to space.
Simultaneously, the political landscape in space reflects international relations, with a renewed space race between the US and China. As commercial activities supersede state initiatives, medium-sized powers will gain space capabilities akin to today's major powers.
The rise in spacecraft number and the emergence of service-based business models necessitate comprehensive space traffic management. Climate change and space debris growth provide impetus for sustainability and regeneration discourse in the space sector.
The study also predicts a return to the Moon by humans in the late 2020s, with a US-led lunar base expected by 2040. Probes to Jupiter and Saturn's icy moons, and planet-hunting space telescopes, will provide enhanced understanding of extraterrestrial life.
By 2040, the space economy's total value is anticipated to surpass $1 trillion, with a growing diversification of actors in space and a shift towards space-as-a-service business models. This study illuminates how emerging space business models, such as debris removal and space manufacturing, will play a greater role in everyday life.
Author: Dr Harald Köpping Athanasopoulos, Senior Strategic Foresight Consultant
Date of Completion: June 2023