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GLOBALOUTLOOK


Spaceports: willtheylift communities onEarth?


SPACE LAUNCH IS BEING USED TO PROMOTE LOCAL DEVELOPMENT, BUT NOT ALL LOCATIONS WILL SUCCEED, ALEX IRWIN-HUNT REPORTS


opening up like never before. Technological advancement, falling costs and the entry of new state, commercial and billionaire partici- pants are fuelling promises of our futures both on Earth and launched into the atmosphere. Demand for space launch is


T


picking up, with locations across the globe vying for a share of the booming space industry, a coveted prize for any government for politi- cal and economic development rea- sons, and increasingly for techno- logical sovereignty. While the value chain has


spread, with as many as 72 coun- tries nowhaving space pro- grammes, setting paths for the development of their local space ecosystems, spaceports, the inevita- ble infrastructure gateway to the cosmos, are still a prerogative of a fewcountries. Things may soon look very different, though. “Traditionally, space launch has


been the preserve of a fewhubs such as in Kazakhstan and the US run by governments that were focused on heavy launch,” explains Farooq Sabri, a principal consultant in the space teamat consultancy London Economics. “But nowthere is


June/July 2021 www.fDiIntelligence.com


he cosmos, once the exclusive realm ofmajor powers and selected defence contractors, is


pent-up demand for lower cost launches, which has encouraged a lot of investment into spaceports.” Fromnorthern Europe to New


Zealand, spaceports—ground-based facilities used for orbital launches— are being planned and developed to provide capacity for the ‘new space’ age. Local economic developers hope to create hubs for a global space industry that Morgan Stanley pre- dicts could grow fromroughly $366bn in 2016 tomore than $1100bn in revenue by 2040. As long-fabled space tourism,


exploration and colonies edge closer to becoming amainstreamreality, spaceports are aiming to facilitate constellations of smaller, cheaper satellites being launched into low- earth orbit (LEO) to meet insatiable demand for broadband connectivity and Earth observation data. Consultancy Euroconsult pro-


jects that an average of 990 satellites will be launched into orbit every year until 2028, marking a rapid accelera- tion from the annual average of 230 satellites in the previous decade. But as countries globally vie for a


slice of the growing space pie, ques- tions remain over the viability of so many spaceports, their impact on the environment and local commu- nities, and whether the LEO satellite boomis over-hyped.


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