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INSIDEFDI


EVEN SMALLER COUNTRIES WANT A PIECE OF THE ACTION, WRITES JACOPO DETTONI Frankly, many of themhave put


he universe has had a mag- netic attraction throughout human history. ‘Upon earth,


in the midst of the darkest night, light never abdicates its functions altogether,’ Jules Verne once wrote. If he had seen the fascinating images sent back by Nasa’s Perseverance rover fromMars capturing the full grandeur of the cosmic light show, his already vivid imagination would have stretched even further. Mars is the last frontier of an industry that, by definition, knows no boundaries – at least on paper. In reality, the space industry has


the cart before the horse. At the moment, it is the usual suspects that account for the lion’s share of com- mercial launches. Familiar names in the space industry since the Cold War, like the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, have successfully transitioned tocommercial launches. The same applies to its ColdWar nemesis, Cape Canaveral, Florida,which is also hosting a launchpad developed by Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin. However, with the space econ-


been the exclusive preserve of a handful of countries with deep pockets, cutting-edge technology and political ambition. No longer. While China’s rover Zhurong joined Nasa’s Perseverance on Mars in May, the list of countries with a civil space programme grows by the day. Latin American countries came together to create a regional space agency in 2020; the Philippines launched its space programme in 2019, Australia and Turkey one year earlier. Overall, about 72 countries have active space agencies, which they set up mostly for research and telecommunications purposes. But the greatest revolution is


unfolding in the private sector. The global space economy is valued at $366bn. Government programmes make up only 26% of it; the remain- ing 74% is commercial and mostly tied to the satellite value chain. Booming demand for data collec- tion and telecommunications ser- vices has spurred technological advances that sharply reduce the cost of putting a satellite in orbit. The industry is nowexpected to launch about 990 satellites per year through 2028, some of them no big- ger than a toaster. Locations across the globe are vying to become a gateway for this multitude of satel- lites to reach their orbit, more often than not a loworbit. There are nine proposed spaceports in the US, another seven in the UK, three in Australia, two in Indonesia and many others across the globe (see cover story, page 18).


June/July 2021 www.fDiIntelligence.com


omy expected to treble in value in the next 20 years, demand is picking up and a new generation of rocket companies such as PhantomSpace are scrambling to secure access to spaceports. Besides, the likes of ElonMusk,


Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos have resuscitated a fantasy as old as humanity: space travel. Forget the meticulous training of the first astro- nauts. Following three days of train- ing, Mr Bezos plans to board Blue Origin’s first-ever crewed flight on July 20. Mr Musk’s SpaceX wants to follow suit by the end of 2021. Mr Branson’s Virgin Galactic went as far as forecasting 400 trips per year gen- erating $1bn in revenues per space- port: no timeline was given. Weare at the dawnof anewspace


age. Although uncertainties abound, nanosatellites andwealthy tourists desperate for a zero-gravity experience may soon share the cosmos. Whilewe lookupinawe, it’s the development this triggers on Earth that will have the deeperimpact.■


Jacopo Dettoni is the editor of fDi.


Anewspaceagedawns T


WITH THE SPACE ECONOMY EXPECTED TO TREBLE IN VALUE IN THE NEXT 20 YEARS, DEMANDIS PICKINGUP


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