The Space Economy: Ready For Liftoff

Kai Goerlich and Dan Wellers

Space may not yet be high on the agenda for digital leaders, but leading business minds are making billion-dollar bets that suggest it should be.

Many innovations now critical to most organizations—from mobile devices to GPS—resulted from space R&D, and chances are that many future innovations will be sourced in the cosmos as well.


The global space economy will triple from US$329 billion in 2016 to $1.1 trillion in 2040.
A record 120 venture capital firms invested $3.9 billion in space companies in 2017.
The GeoCARB satellite will track 10 million daily metrics of climate change when launched in the early 2020s.
The Global Future Council on Space Technologies predicts a new wave of space-enabled innovation by 2030.

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The New Space Race

The space economy has exploded Big Bang–like as private companies have joined the public sector in advancing space-related innovation. Some of the biggest businesses on Earth are planning to expand their markets skyward. Major investments include:

  • Google’s $30 million Lunar XPrize
  • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s $1 billion annual space transportation investment
  • Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch Systems
  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s SpaceX

A Satellite Industry

The benefits of space investment are evident in a rapidly growing global satellite infrastructure:

  • More than 4,500 satellites orbit the Earth today
  • The cost to launch a satellite has dropped from $60 million to $2 million
  • 930 so-called nanosatellites have been launched in recent years

Already a powerful source of Big Data breakthroughs in areas such as climate observation and supply chain transparency, fleets of smaller, cheaper satellites will transmit vastly greater volumes of data generated by Internet of Things technologies. Advances in analytics, artificial intelligence, and computing power will enable us to turn real-time imaging and data into innovation across industries.


A Galactic Economy

Space exploration and the ingenuity it requires could provide a range of new options for expanding markets and supporting life on Earth—or elsewhere. Galactic economic development zones could spur a range of new industries, from space tourism to space manufacturing.

  • China plans construction on its space station in 2019, while billionaire Robert Bigelow is funding private space stations.
  • Companies are looking to space to source vital resources, including solar power and critical minerals.
  • Governments and private companies are making plans for exploration and development of the moon and Mars.

The Ultimate Shift in Perspective

Breakthrough innovation often results from looking at a problem from a different angle. Observing Earth from orbiting satellites and gazing out into space can provide the radical shift in perspective required to expand our cognitive horizons and come up with solutions unbound by earthly thinking.


Download the executive brief The Space Economy: Ready for Liftoff.


Read the full article The Tech That Fell from Space.


Kai Goerlich

About Kai Goerlich

Kai Goerlich is the Chief Futurist at SAP Innovation Center network. His specialties include competitive intelligence, market intelligence, corporate foresight, trends, futuring, and ideation. Share your thoughts with Kai on Twitter @KaiGoe.

About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is the Global Lead of Digital Futures at SAP.