/Space invaders: The rise of commercial firms

Space invaders: The rise of commercial firms

Key idea: Private companies are harnessing space technology that can directly influence state actors, blurring the lines between commercial and national capabilities.

Original author and publication date: Dean Cheng (GIS Reports) – January 5, 2023

Futurizonte Editor’s Note: If we are commercializing space (as it is clear we are), are we also exporting to space the same economic and ideological systems that are helping to destroy earth?

From the article:   

The space industrial complex, which used to be dominated by state-level consumers and a handful of large aerospace corporations, has now become more democratized, as a plethora of companies has entered the field. These companies have brought not only new technological innovations but also very different business approaches, such that the idea of Space 2.0 has become commonplace.

While commercial space launch companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin have gotten much of the attention, commercial space service providers, ranging from earth-imaging companies like Planet Labs and Maxar, to satellite internet providers like Starlink, indicate that these new participants will grow their presence across the range of space services.

The products and services of these companies will challenge many traditional space providers and, more importantly, the role of nation-states in determining how space is used and by whom.

Meanwhile, humanity has increasingly exploited the domain of outer space for purposes beyond purely military ones. Satellite communications work seamlessly with terrestrial systems to allow billions to keep in touch. Remote sensing data from satellites provide urban planners and farmers with useful information for planning everything from urban renewal projects to next year’s crop plantings.

Above all, position, navigation and timing (PNT) satellites such as the American Global Positioning System (GPS) and the Chinese Beidou network are now widely employed for purposes beyond navigating ships and aircraft. PNT-equipped agricultural machinery allows precise control of seed planting and irrigation. PNT networks also provide vital timing signals to support cell phone networks, pipeline pumping stations and financial transactions.

The roles of nations and corporations are likely to blur, as commercial space companies field increasingly capable systems and are able to directly influence national actors.

Perhaps the greatest role of space systems in the 21st century is as a key enabler of other activities on earth.

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