Building In-roads into the Future of Space: Experimentation, Learning and Leadership in a New World
The space economy is booming.
At the height of COVID-19, the global space economy hit US$469 billion in 2021, up 9% from the previous year in spite of the uncertain global environment.
The space economy is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.84% from now till 2026, and reach a trillion by 2040, making space a tremendous economic pillar in the very immediate future despite the recent slowdown in progress due to the pandemic.
This is driven by the growing movement in satellite miniaturisation, phenomenally lower launch costs, and a cult movement in space that has been growing steadily in the past decade that has drawn talent from all over the world.
The implications to the space economy are tremendous, especially in the areas of innovation, experimentation and big data.
Space Is the New Frontier for Innovation and Experimentation
The space environment offers one of the most unique hostile environments that could help scientists better understand a wide range of biological processes.
With rising temperatures on Earth, how can we use the hostile space environment to help us develop more resilient crops? What can we learn about the impact of the space environment on plant biology that could eventually help to address food sustainability on Earth?
There are so many other applications of the zero-gravity environment on different areas of research. We are only today just exploring the tip of a very large iceberg, and with more advances in research technology, there will be more opportunities to experiment in space.
Space Data will Lead the Next Big Data Revolution
In the past few years, mankind has launched a record-breaking number of satellites into space. Add that to the relative ease of launching a satellite and the entrance of many private sector players all wanting a piece of the space pie, and you have an exponential amount of data forming what we can only call a mega dataset.
This data set is going to be ubiquitous, persistent, multi-layered and hyperspectral. Think of Google at a much larger universal scale and we come a little closer to the magnitude of this mega dataset.
And with the rapid development in AI and Machine Learning, we will progressively have more tools to make sense of this data and put it to good use across everything from climate tech innovations to agriculture and management of earth resources.
But as the space economy opens up for smaller countries, more governments and more private organisations to participate in, the space industry is still a difficult one to crack.
Talent, R&D and Industry Ecosystem Development are Key
Closing the talent gap in the industry remains one of the single biggest challenges of unlocking the industry’s growth potential.
While the world is still talking about STEM education for youths, the space economy demands a STEM 2.0 revolution: for the workforce to have industry-ready and industry-relevant STEM skills. Governments are going to be challenged to accelerate this because it involves a pivot in their education policy. A more likely and sustainable model is partnership with the private sector to complement formal curriculum.
Companies will struggle with tapping into space to enrich their R&D roadmap: understanding what space can offer, knowing which partners to work with, being able to review different space-based technologies that are relevant will be hard to do at scale and in short order. Companies will need help to redesign their R&D roadmap yet they will be under tremendous pressure to do so quickly for a competitive advantage.
Governments will need help developing their industry roadmap, but there will be few parties well positioned for this because the space industry has long been a strong G2G play with a lot of space expertise and networks tied up with political interests.
Developing the roadmap for talent, R&D evolution and industry development will be key to unlocking the potential of the space industry – and working with the right partners to scale and operate with relative speed.
About the Author
As Chief Executive of Space Faculty, Lynette Tan is a champion of the Asia space ecosystem, working through her organisation to build the talent, R&D and industry roadmap for the space sector in the region.
Lynette is also a champion of helping more organisations outside of the space sector to leverage the tremendous innovation potential of space-based technologies. Her work with governments in the region has helped them to expand their space industry, connecting them to the global space agenda.