prominent business people and pri- vate capital has improved accessibil- ity and built the case for increased launch capacity. High-profile billion- aires, including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, ElonMusk of Tesla and Richard Branson, the British entrepreneur and founder of Virgin, have set up their own rocket and satellite ven- tures, pushing up demand for launch capacity and services. “Commercial capability [in the

Sources: Thomas G. Roberts, “Spaceports of the World”, CSIS Aerospace Security Project, fDi Markets, fDi Research Chart shows space ports of the world by number of launches between 1957 and 2020, according to CSIS database. Countries are shaded by amount of space-related foreign investment attracted between January 2003 and March 2021, according to fDi Markets data.

Space-related FDI includes all investment made in the aerospace, space and defence industries.

Launching an industry In 2019, the global space economy was valued at $366bn, with the satel- lite industry accounting for almost three-quarters of the total, according to BryceTech, an analytics and engi- neering firm. Carissa Christensen, the chief

executive and founder of BryceTech, tells fDi there are two main threads to space activities: the satellite value chain and in-space activity, the latter ofwhich includeshuman space flight, space stations and explora- tion. “The space industry is extraor- dinarily diverse, with businesses that have different rhythms, drivers, jobs and outcomes, and they are all linked by launch,” she says. Spaceports have existed since

1957, when Sputnik 1 was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the south of modern-day Kazakhstan. Since then 28 space- ports have been used to launch sat- ellites into orbit globally, with 22 still active today, according to data compiled at the beginning of 2021 by the Center for Strategic and Interntional Studies (CSIS), a Washington DC-based think tank. “While spaceports are diverse in

their business models, they have the potential to become economic engines for communities across the nation and around the world,” George Nield, the chairman of the Global Spaceport Alliance, a US-based advocacy group for the global spaceport community, wrote in 2019. By facilitating space launch,

spaceports can generate revenue fromlaunch fees and benefit from the investmentsmade into launch


campaigns and associated activities, such as research and development, manufacturing and servicing.

GEOversus LEO Ms Christensen says the launch sec- tor began to become commercial and grow in the 1980s, when the market was dominated by very large satellites being put into geostation- ary orbit (GEO) for telecommunica- tions, TV and other applications. While GEOsatellites orbit the

Earth directly above the equator at an altitude of more than 35,000km covering large geographical areas, LEO satellites usually orbit within 1000km and do not need to follow a particular path around Earth. GEO satellites, which are often

much larger than their LEOcounter- parts, are typically launched from spaceports near to the equator to get an extra boost fromthe Earth’s rota- tion,whereas smaller LEO satellites that provide fastercommunications can be launched into orbit from appropriate sites in different areas of the world. More than three quarters of the

3372 operational satellites in orbit around the Earth at the end of 2020 were in LEO, according to data from the Union of Concerned Scientists (USC), a US non-profit organisation. The US has by far the largestnumber of operating satellites in orbit (1897), used for a mix of civil, commercial and military purposes; followed by China (412) and Russia (176).

Commercialpush Whereas previously, space was almost exclusively the domain of governments, the recent entry of

US] has quickly outpaced the govern- ment’s capability,” says Chad Anderson, founder and managing partner of Space Capital, a seed-stage venture capital firm that invests in space-based technologies. A decade ago, he says, the space

infrastructure and launch market comprised US agency Nasa and a few defence contractors, but nowElon Musk’s SpaceX has “broken that deadlock”. It has removed the barrier to entry into space by bringing down launch costs andmaking a previ- ously opaque marketmore transpar- ent by publishing its pricing. “SpaceX is the apex player, without a doubt,” Mr Anderson adds. While space launch vehicles have

vastly different sizes, weights and likelihoods of success, the cost of launch into LEO has declined over the last fewdecades, according to data frommultiple sources compiled by Thomas Roberts at the CSIS Aerospace Security Project. Starship, SpaceX’s reusable rocket

systemunder development is making big steps towards cost reduction, and eventually plans to carry humans and cargo to theMoon andMars. SpaceX recentlywona $2.9bn contract from NASAto develop a lunar spacecraft, whichwas subsequently suspended after kickback fromrival bidders suchasMrBezos’s Blue Origin and defence contractor Dynetics. SpaceX has two ground-based

launch sites in Texas, located in McGregor and Boca Chica, and it has bought two oil rigs to create ‘ocean spaceports’ fromwhich it will launch rockets.MrMusk tweeted inMay that the ‘Deimos’ platform, named after one ofMars’moons, is under con- structionfor launch in 2022. But it is Mr Bezos who has

grabbed headlines most recently. In June, he announced that he would becomeone of the first civilians to enter the edge of space on the New Shepard spacecraft, as part of a launch on July 20 fromhis self- funded rocket company Blue June/July 2021

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