Jeff Greenblatt (Ph.D. Chem, '99) and Alfred Anzaldúa explore the costs of doing business in space in this position paper written for the National Space Society.
The world already benefits greatly from space technology, especially in terms of communications, positioning services, Earth observation, and economic activity related to government-funded space programs. Humanity’s outer space capability has grown remarkably since 1957 when Sputnik was launched. Since then, we have witnessed humans land on the Moon, 135 flights of the Space Shuttle, construction of the International Space Station (ISS), and the launch of more than 8,100 space objects, including dozens of exploration missions to every corner of the Solar System. In March, the US announced an accelerated schedule to permanently return humans to the Moon in 2024. Many other nations are also focused on a return to the Moon. With an explosion of more than 2,000 commercial space companies, including those building communications satellites, orbital launch vehicles, rovers for the Moon and Mars, orbital habitats, space manufacturing platforms, and space greenhouses, the world’s commercial space capabilities are quickly expanding beyond our satellite industry, which over the last year already brought in more than $277 billion in global revenues.
One reason for this recent explosion in space-related activity is the plunging cost of launch to low Earth orbit (LEO). The full version of this article appears in The Space Review