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How can industry prosper in space?

asked 2016-05-07 10:29:13 -0600

Rob Mueller gravatar image

If SpaceX really manages to reduce the cost of launching to $100 /kg to Low Earth Orbit (LEO), a new space bonanza awaits us - what are the likely profitable space ventures that will emerge?

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answered 2016-05-09 15:10:14 -0600

Spacerobots gravatar image

This answer is limited to Earth-orbiting ventures. It does not consider extraterrestrial resource exploitation (addressed in another question) or colonization.

Greatly reduced launch costs enable two things: expansion/extension of current space markets, and development of entirely new markets. The highest revenue market today is communications via geostationary (GEO) satellites. In 2014 this generated $118 billion in revenue. Lower launch cost would enable building larger, higher bandwidth, more powerful GEO spacecraft. It would also enable launching robots to assemble huge antennas in GEO that provide even more capability.

An entirely new market could be energy--harvesting solar energy on orbit and beaming it to Large Earth receivers via microwaves. A good description of this capability was given by Susumu Sasaki in IEEE Spectrum, May 2014. Launch costs have made this technology economically unattractive to date, so greatly reduced launch costs could accelerate this clean energy technology.

Another advantage of reducing launch costs would be to expand the testing and qualification of new space technologies--to "try stuff and see how it works." Today it is very difficult to get flight heritage for new components and systems; reduced launch costs could improve the situation, with the benefits multiplying across numerous space markets.

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Asked: 2016-05-07 10:29:13 -0600

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Last updated: May 09 '16