Trends and predictions for the global space industry

22 May 2020 8 min. read
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The global space industry is at a pivotal point. In the coming years, the industry is set to advance and open up, which will trigger growth – by 2030, the global space industry will be worth around $600 billion. This will generate opportunity for national governments and private sectors players, with companies from several industries looking at space to improve and transform their own businesses.

In a new report by KPMG, experts from the professional services firm look into the key trends and levers behind the expected growth. According to the authors, a set of 30 developments will drive significant change and the anticipated growth, across five pillars: life and work, deep space exploration; space business models; space data; sustainability in space.

Humans will live, work and holiday in space

The key trends & predictions:

1. Space travel will be a collaborative multinational venture.
2. Living in space will be easier but not easy.
3. Zero gravity – new medical conditions and new treatments.
4. Many will experience space – but not all will go.
5. You will know an astronaut.
6. The human genome will change to support human deep space exploration.

In 2030 expect society’s interaction with space and in particular the Moon to revolutionize. While in recent years we have flirted with the idea of travelling to the Moon commercially, by the end of the decade we will move ahead in leaps and bounds with many having completed this ‘once in a lifetime’ experience.

In a world where leisurely travel to the Moon is viable, expect open discussion of the prospect of people permanently residing on its barren terrain. While it will be a possibility by the end of the decade, the financial, logistical, physical, and psychological implications will mean it’s still a hard task for humans to conquer.

Space travel will still be costly and not accessible to all. With technology improving at a rapid speed, virtual reality will play a large role in giving people the experience of space travel. This will be critical to increase interest in space.

While we will need to identify solutions to challenges to enable us to stay in space and on the Moon for longer, easier access to space and increased presence in space will enable us to conduct more medical research in zero gravity. This will provide opportunities to discover new treatments for conditions we thought weren’t possible. Furthermore, we may start to see the ability to deliberately alter the human genome to further support humanity’s sustained exploration of space.

Deep space exploration

The key trends & predictions:

7. We’ll successfully mine the Moon for water by 2030.
8. We may finally discover evidence of life in space.
9. We’ll operate assets remotely on the Moon like mines in the Pilbara.
10. Growing and eating food in space will be commonplace.
11. Virtual companions will assist with the mental health challenges of long space travel.
12. We will look back in time more than 4 billion years.

As space industry technology continues to improve in the new decade, so will our ability to expand our horizons and more deeply explore all aspects of the solar system, in particular our Moon.

With a much greater appetite to have permanent human residence on the Moon by 2030, there will be a focus on ensuring we are able to use water on the Moon for fuel and life. Through new extraction technology we will be able to separate water into the basic constituents of rocket fuel (hydrogen and oxygen) and support agriculture on the Moon.

Traveling further into space means astronauts will be isolated for extended periods of time. With the assistance of technology, ‘virtual buddies’ will ensure that these people will stay in a healthy mental state while away from Earth.

New telescope technology will enable us to see the first galaxies being formed after the Big Bang, through projects like the James Webb Space Telescope, which will expand our understanding of the solar system.

We now have a much better idea of what we are looking for on other planets for signs of life. Over the coming decade, missions to other planets like Mars 2020 with the Perseverance rover and Europa Clipper to one of Jupiter’s Moons will help determine if we are alone in the universe.

Space business models

The key trends & predictions:

13. Every business will be a space business.
14. The leading space businesses of 2030 are start-ups today.
15. Long-established terrestrial industries will build a presence in space.
16. Government will be a customer of civil space business.
17. Multinational co-operation, while challenging, will drive the peace dividend.
18. Manufacturing in space will be real and viable.

Already in 2020, many multi-national businesses are investing in the space sector and understanding how it can add value to their business on Earth. By 2030 we expect all businesses across all industries, whether related or not, to benefit from space, with many having dedicated space teams and resources.

Operations that have long been run on Earth will now take place beyond our planet. Organisations will be trialing experiments – from medical research to manufacturing – in space, introducing new products and solutions into the market. This may include growing tissue and artificial transplants in zero gravity, as well as manufacturing fiber optics for communication.

Rather than space programs being purely government-led, we will see more and more partnerships between the public and private sectors. These partnerships will drive new activities and push technological boundaries as we aim to develop new commercial applications from the sector and make new discoveries about the solar system. Global levels of cooperation will help enhance economic and political ties between nation states.

What were considered to be ‘small start-ups’ in the space industry in 2020, by 2030 will become the leaders of this sector. As space becomes commercially focused, more businesses will realize the value of space, and new business cases will become viable. The majority of space companies will be valued in the billions of dollars and operate across multiple countries.

Space data comes back to Earth

The key trends & predictions: 

19. Space data will become completely commoditized.
20. An international regulatory body for space data will be established.
21. AI will be commonplace in space.
22. Data will not be owned – rather shared.
23. Governments will conduct their census from space.
24. Personal privacy will be challenged.

Data collected in space will continue to increase in value over the next decade as volume, variety, velocity and veracity increase. With the increased use of space data, a central international governing body will need to be established, employing new agile approaches to regulation as new issues appear – but getting there will not be easy.

Much of the data collected will be analysed by edge analytics in-orbit to reduce the volume of data that needs to be transmitted to Earth and stored. At the same time, in-orbit relays will increase our transmission capacity to Earth, providing more data to input into analytics. AI will also be used in deep space missions to overcome communications delays due to distance, and help pre-empt and correct problems.

We expect that space data will be prolific, though provide little value on its own. Companies will find real value in generating and selling actionable insights from the data they collect and intersect with other sources. New data will help identify and drive new business opportunities across different industries.

Governments by 2030 may conduct their own census from space rather than by the ten-yearly survey we’ve become used to filling out. This will enable more precise humanitarian and medical support in developing countries and enable more frequent updates.

Sustainability in space

The key trends & predictions:

25. Sustainability in space will benefit sustainability on Earth.
26. There will be a ‘CFC moment’ in space which will trigger a moratorium on space debris.
27. Space ecology will be imperative for our millennial generation.
28. Space will get its own legal jurisdiction.
29. Space will be forced to accelerate quickly as an operational domain for armed forces.
30. A Master’s of Space Ecology will be offered at universities.

Businesses are already putting sustainability at the forefront of what they do on Earth, and in the years ahead the same will be applied to our activities in space.

Debris in space has long been an area of concern. This will only escalate as we are more active in space, to the point where international agreements will have to be made to find sustainable solutions. The recovery of decommissioned satellites in space will also involve a strategy to recycle and find a new purpose for them. As access to space is opened up and deep space exploration grows, legislation and treaties governing space will need to evolve. Expect space to become its own legal jurisdiction.

Space is already softly militarized, with many countries leveraging it as an operational domain for armed forces. There are however deliberate efforts and treaties to ensure this doesn’t become hard militarization. With the applications possible in space constantly expanding, treaties and regulations must evolve to ensure it is not exploited.

Expect a Master’s degree in Space Ecology to become a viable degree for students wishing to have prosperous careers in the sector.