By Moshe Wander, Pallas Foundation Fellow
November 29, 2023
As Pallas Foundation Fellows, we are invited to participate in discussions on top national security issues. Last month, I had the opportunity to join a Pallas Foundation thought leadership event on the economics of space with special guests from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Space Council, and NASA. This roundtable brought together space leaders from commercial and government to share their perspectives on how to value the size of the space economy and what policy levers the government should consider to help the sector grow and support U.S. interests. I walked away with three key conclusions:
The space economy is bigger than it appears. Although the global satellite industry grew by less than one percent last year, from 279 billion in 2021 to 281 billion in 2022, and has a total revenue (based on several sources) ranging between $280B to $500B, the downstream effects of investment in space are far larger, and has a value that some participants estimated in the trillions of dollars. This includes internet, television, and GPS technology – services which impact everyone’s daily lives. Calculating the true size of the space economy is still a matter of debate, as stakeholders aren’t in agreement as to whether space is a market, a sector, or only a domain.
Policymakers need to protect the U.S. lead in the commercial space industry. Although the U.S. has a commanding lead in the commercial space industry, other countries are catching up, and the U.S. is in danger of losing its edge. Protecting our lead requires shaping regulations, trade, and acquisition policy in such a way that the U.S. is a more attractive destination for investment in space companies.
Invest in the public good. There are numerous ways that government investment in the space economy can advance the U.S.’s interests and the public good at the same time. Public investment could make satellite data more accessible to NGOs, which they could use to expedite humanitarian relief. Investment in rural broadband can bring internet access to communities that need it. Investment in space exploration can generate greater interest in space and bring more people into the space economy.
As the space domain continues to become further intertwined with the U.S.’s (and other space faring nations) diplomatic, military, and economic activities, it is important to continuously evaluate the total addressable market, innovation efforts, and regulatory concerns. If the U.S. doesn’t make smart investment decisions and write supportive policy, it risks losing its lead in the space industry. Let’s seize this opportunity and protect our lead in space.
N.B. The event described was held under Chatham House rules; the above summary reflects the views of the author alone and does not imply endorsement by any other attendee.
Moshe Wander was a Pallas Foundation Fellow in Fall 2023. He is a recent master’s graduate of Georgetown’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, and previously worked in the media industry.